BAGRAM (Reuters) - Life as eight-year-old Razia knew it ended one March morning when a shell her father says was fired by Western troops exploded into their house, enveloping her head and neck in a blazing chemical. Now she spends her days in a US hospital bed at the Bagram airbase, her small fingernails still covered with flaking red polish but her face an almost unrecognisable mess of burned tissue and half her scalp a bald scar. The kids called out to me that I was burning but the explosion was so strong that for a moment I was deaf and couldnt hear anything, her father, Aziz Rahman, told Reuters. And then my wife screamed 'the kids are burning and she was also burning, he added, his face clouding over at the memory. The flames that consumed his family were fed by a chemical called white phosphorous, which US medical staff at Bagram said they found on Razias face and neck. It bursts into fierce fire on contact with the air and can stick to and even penetrate flesh as it burns. White phosphorus can be used legally in war to provide light, create smokescreens or burn buildings, so it is not banned under international treaties that forbid using chemicals as weapons. Colonel Gregory Julian, a spokesman for the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, confirmed that Western forces in the country use the chemical. In the case of white phosphorus it is used on the battlefield in certain applications ... It is used as an incendiary to destroy bunkers and enemy equipment; its used for illumination. But US military training manuals say firing it at people is illegal. Its use in populated areas has been a persistent source of controversy. Razia and her family are the first known civilian casualties of its use in Afghanistan. Rahman said the shell that burned his daughter landed after a firefight near their house in the eastern province of Kapisa. The NATO-led international force there is made up mainly of French troops, with US support. A spokeswoman for the NATO-led force rejected Rahmans account, saying an internal investigation into the incident concluded that it was 'very unlikely the weapon that hit Razias house was theirs, because of the timing and location. The Afghan government, military specialists and experts on the Taliban told Reuters, however, that insurgents have never been observed using white phosphorus. The only forces on the battlefield known to use it are the United States and NATO. I am not aware that the Taliban have used this in any of their attacks, said Zaher Murad, a Defence Ministry spokesman. Ahmed Rashid, Pakistan-based author of a widely acclaimed book on the hardline Islamists, said that he was also not aware of such reports. The use of the chemical for illumination and concealment of troop movements suit the tactics of foreign forces in a hostile environment, but it would be of little use to insurgents who know the terrain and can blend into the civilian population. When Rahman saw his daughter on fire, he rushed her out to the yard, where he put out the flames with water stored to mix mud for a new wall. Her hair came away in clumps in his hand. He raced inside and found two other children dead from head wounds. He hoisted Razia on his back and staggered towards the local base where soldiers arranged a US airlift that almost certainly saved her life. Colleen Fitzpatrick, a U.S. military paediatric surgeon who has been treating Razia, confirmed Razia was hit by white phosphorous and had burns to 40pc of her body. Razia, who did not want her picture taken, is now suffering mentally as well as physically. My daughter is really sad and really lonely and she misses her family and mother. When I call home in the afternoon ... she talks with her mother and is always saying 'mum, I miss you.