British forces have denied rumours that they released a plague of ferocious badgers into the Iraqi city of Basra.
Word spread among the populace that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating bear-like beasts into the area to spread panic.
But several of the creatures, caught and killed by local farmers, have been identified by experts as honey badgers.
UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.
“We have been told these are indigenous nocturnal carnivores that don’t attack humans unless cornered.”
But the assurances did little to convince some members of the public.
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.”
Sattar Jabbar, a 50-year-old farmer from Abu Sakhar, north of Basra, claimed he saw one of the badgers eat a cow.
“It tore the cow up piece by piece. I tried to shoot it with my gun but it ran away into the orchards,” he said.