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US A10 gunships armed with depleted uranium join fight against ISIS

US A10 gunships join conflict in Iraq just days before the UN General Assembly votes on a fifth DU resolution.
27 November 2014 - ICBUW

A squadron of US A10 gunships has arrived in the Middle East and is being made available for operations against ISIS in Iraq, the Pentagon had previously confirmed that the aircraft will use DU weapons ‘if they need to’. Earlier this summer Iraq called for a global treaty ban on the weapons and help from the international community is dealing with DU contamination left from 1991 and 2003. The move comes just days before the UN General Assembly will vote on a fifth resolution on the chemically toxic and radioactive weapons.

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Several A-10 Thunderbolts II arrived here Nov. 17, 2014, to support regional military activities including Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. The 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron “Blacksnakes” are deployed from the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., and will be assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jared Marquis)
The 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron “Blacksnakes” are deployed from the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., and will be assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group.

The USAF announced on Monday that the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which had previously provided close air support operations in Afghanistan, had arrived with ‘several A-10 Thunderbolts II’ – though did not disclose the precise number. “They’re going over there because there’s a need … to be postured for a combat rescue mission,” said Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman. “While they’re there, we will maximize their use,” Cassidy said.

According to reports, the Air Force did not specify how many A-10s were in theatre except to say that it was an “expeditionary squadron-sized element.” The service also declined to say where the A-10s would be stationed during the operations, due to “diplomatic sensitivities”. However Janes Defence Weekly identified that they are based in Kuwait, a country not unfamiliar with cleaning up DU and one where the unauthorised use of DU on training ranges has caused political and diplomatic tensions in the past.

In a report to the UN Secretary General earlier this year, Iraq had said that: “the United Nations, the specialised agencies (IAEA, WHO and UNEP), all States Members of the United Nations and non-governmental organisations to adopt a proactive approach towards the danger of the use of depleted uranium in armaments and ammunitions and to condemn such use…efforts should be made to draft a binding and verifiable international treaty prohibiting the use, possession, transfer and trafficking of such armaments and ammunitions.”

“The US’s utter disregard for the views of the government of Iraq, which it claims to be helping, is staggering,” said ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir. “It has done everything possible to avoid responsibility for historical contamination in Iraq and continues to oppose efforts to clean-up and determine the public health impact of the weapons – even as it builds on that hazardous legacy by deploying the weapons once again.”  

The UN General Assembly will be voting on a resolution calling for international assistance for states affected by the weapons next Tuesday. At present there are no legal obligations on their users to take responsibility for the contamination or health problems they cause. The resolution is expected to pass with a record majority.