Word spread among the populace [of Basra] 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 been identified by experts as honey badgers.
The rumours spread because the animals had appeared near the British base at Basra airport.
UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.
The honey badger, or ratel (Mellivora capensis), is a seperate species and genus related to the American and European badgers. It's range spreads from Southern Africa to Northwestern India and has historically included Iraq. They haven't been seen in the Basra area for many years, but the restoring of the marshes has caused them to move to dryer ground, including land around the city. They are omnivorous (but mostly carnivorous) and eat many animals that other hunters leave alone, including porcupines, poisonous snakes, and small crocodiles. Because they will take on such prey, they have a reputation for fearlessness. The males can grow to about thirty pounds. They wouldn't hunt a human, but they could carve one up pretty badly if cornered. They are also cute as the dickens.
The Basra Badgers would be great name for a sports franchise.
I can't wait for the White House to tie the badgers to al Qayda. After that it would only be a matter of time before al Qayda sent out a podcast to say "we don't need no stinking badgers to bring down the decadent West."