March 05, 2010

Fallujah birth defects blamed on US, Thursday 04 March 2010, Morning Star online

Fallujah has suffered an epidemic of birth defects since US-led forces laid siege to the city in 2004, doctors and parents have claimed.

A hospital paediatrician in the city told BBC world affairs editor John Simpson that three new cases of birth defects are seen every day.

Mr Simpson reported that he had visited a family whose three young children were suffering from paralysis or brain damage.

He also saw a young girl with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.

The paediatrician told Mr Simpson that the cases seen in the children's ward were mainly cardiac defects.

The US military denies the birth defects are related to weapons used by its forces in the conflict.

A spokesman told the BBC: "No studies to date have indicated environmental issues resulting in specific health issues."

But Mr Simpson hinted that defects were being under-reported, saying: "It was hard to find doctors at the brand-new, US-funded hospital in Fallujah who were prepared to talk about the problem."

The US has helped fund reconstruction of Fallujah and Mr Simpson said people were "scared to speak because the Iraqi government did not want to create trouble for the Americans."

In February 2004 residents of Fallujah drove US forces out of their city - and the following month defeated a three-week long attempt by 4,500 US soldiers to reoccupy it.

In November of that year 10,000 US soldiers backed by Kurdish peshmerga forces mounted a full-scale assault on the city in an apparent act of collective punishment.

At the time Iraqi Health Ministry official Dr Khalid ash Shaykhli told a news conference that fleeing residents described "seeing corpses that had melted, which suggests that US troops used napalm gas, a poisonous compound of polystyrene and aircraft fuel which melts bodies."

Dr ash Shaykhli also said that his researchers had found evidence of the use of mustard gas and nerve gas, saying: "We found dozens, not to say hundreds, of stray dogs, cats, and birds that had perished as a result of those gases."

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