Friday, August 10, 2007

Iraq - British under fire from bullets and rumours

The Honey Badger which has "terrorized" Iraqis near Basra

“THE Iraqi port city of Basra, already prey to a nasty turf war between rival militia factions, has now been gripped by a scary rumour – giant badgers are stalking the streets by night, eating humans.” So reported the Australian Telegraph in mid-July. The news also appeared in other publications worldwide and forced the British army to make a statement saying they were not responsible for releasing the supposed ferocious beasts. UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer told reporters, "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.” Rumours spread among the populace that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating, bear-like beasts into the area to sow panic. But several of the creatures, caught and killed by local farmers, have subsequently been identified by experts as honey badgers [BBC]. Not convinced, many residents of Basra cited incidents of attack. One housewife, Suad Hassan, 30, claimed she had been attacked by one of the badgers as she slept. "My husband hurried to shoot it but it was as swift as a deer," she said. "It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey," she told AFP.

The danger to British troops over the last few weeks from insurgents has been far more real. Eight troops died in July and four others have died this last week alone. It brings the total body count to 168 since March 2003 [BBC]. Another British soldier also died today in Afghanistan bringing the total to 69 the number fallen since 2001 [BBC].

To help curb the chaos a British/US joint resolution for the UN to play a greater role in Iraq was today passed by the Security Council. The UN pulled out in 2003 after a terrorist attack at their Baghdad headquarters killed 22 [BBC].

British losses haven’t only been confined to the theatre of war. This week saw the deaths of two on board a helicopter which crashed in North Yorkshire. Ten others were injured when the Puma crashed at around 21:00 GMT on Wednesday [BBC].

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