British forces in the lively Iraqi city of Basra are denying claims they are responsible for a "plague" of "vicious badger-like creatures which have attacked livestock - and even humans", the Telegraph reports.
Shaken locals have recounted chilling tales of rampant "ratels" - feared desert carnivores who normally dine on cobras and attack humans only when provoked. Sattar Jabbar, a 50-year-old farmer, explained: "I saw it at night attacking animals. It even ate a cow. It tore the cow up piece by piece."
The ratels have been operating in the city, too. Housewife Suad Hassan recounted: "I was sleeping when this strange animal hit me on my head. My husband hurried to shoot it but it was as swift as a deer."
The blame for the musteline black ops lies firmly with the British, according to farmer Ali Mohsen. He said: "This animal appeared following a raid to the region by the British forces. They probably released this animal into the area."
Not so, corrected the director of Basra's veterinary hospital, Mushtaq Abdul-Mahdi, who noted the animals had been around for decades and clarified: "They are known locally as al-Girta. Talk that this animal was brought by the British forces is incorrect."
British Army spokesman Major David Gell further explained that the four-legged assassins were "thought to be a kind of honey badger" - melivora capensis. He said: "They are native to the region but rare in Iraq. They're nocturnal carnivores with a fearsome reputation, but they don't stalk humans and carry them back to their lair."
Whoever, or whatever, is ultimately responsible for Basra's badger battallion, the city's besieged residents have not taken the invasion lying down. Several have been shot, as this YouTube clip shows: