British Blamed for Beast of Basra

Rumors that British troops have unleashed a dangerous monster in Basra are further complicating efforts to win the hearts and minds of locals.

British forces operating around the southern Iraqi city of Basra are being blamed for the arrival of a plague of vicious badgers that stalk the streets at night, attacking livestock and even humans.

Local farmers have caught and killed several of the beasts, but this has done nothing to dispel rumours of a bear-like monster that eats humans and was, according to the local rumour mill, released into the area by UK forces to spread panic.

Major David Gell, a British Army spokesman, said the animals were thought to be a kind of honey badger or ratel – melivora capensis – which can be fierce but are not usually dangerous to humans unless provoked.

[…]

Iraqi scientists have attempted to calm the public but the story of the British badgers has spread like wildfire through Basra and the surrounding villages.

Mushtaq Abdul-Mahdi, director of Basra’s veterinary hospital, has inspected the corpses of several dead badgers and sought to reassure his fellow citizens that they are not new to the region but had been seen well before Saddam’s ouster in 2003. “Talk that this animal was brought by the British forces is incorrect and unscientific,” Mr Abdul-Mahdi told AFP. But their numbers are increasing, possibly, scientists say, because Iraqi authorities are trying to reflood marshlands north of Basra that were drained under Saddam Hussein.

So far neither the scientists nor the soldiers have been able to calm the populace’s fears. “I was sleeping at night when this strange animal hit me on my head. I have not seen such an animal before. My husband hurried to shoot it but it was as swift as a deer,” said Suad Hassan, a 30-year-old housewife. “It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey. It runs so quickly.”

Via emailed tip from John Burgess, who assures me this sort of thing is commonplace.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    “it was as swift as a deer,” said Suad Hassan, a 30-year-old housewife. “It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey. It runs so quickly.””

    I’m only familiar with giant wooden badgers…but i’ve never heard of anything that matches this description.

  2. ken says:

    Honey badgers have a reputation for a certain type of viciousness unknown to any other animal species. When they attack they go for the genitalia. It has been reported that they will castrate large prey and leave them bleed to death. When confronted by a man they will rip a his balls off before he has a chance to react.

    It is no small reason why they are known as the meanest animal in the world.

  3. markm says:

    Ah, yes, some bud’s of mine have/had some of those.

  4. legion says:

    Insert obligatory “We don’t need no steenkeeng badgers!” joke here.

  5. Tano says:

    What I find interesting in this story is that the Brits seem to be vulnerable to being targeted as the evil conniving heavies in this type of a story. That usually only happens when a group is seen as some powerful alien force that might be capable of causing all kinds of strange things to happen, and for obscure and nefarious reasons.

    Seems to be an indication that the Brits havent exactly managed to endear themselves to the local population.

  6. John Burgess says:

    I think this is more a matter of the use of psychological warfare on the part of those opposing UK presence in Basra.

    Starting rumors has always been an effective way to influence opinions. All it needs is the lightest link to truth

    There are badgers in the UK
    We don’t remember any badgers in Basra
    Badgers are dangerous!
    Therefore, the British are importing badgers to do us harm

    Disinformation has a long history. I’m sure the Iraqis picked up more than a smattering over the course of their long relationship with the USSR.