This is just weird|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|08/10/03 at 21:23:29|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.9|http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-

Afghan 'Tiger Cat' Claws at U.S. Image
Villagers say GIs loosed the beast, which others call a hoax. But what of
the children's scars?
By Robyn Dixon
Times Staff Writer

August 10, 2003

QOOCHI, Afghanistan - To hunt the ferocious tiger cat on the Shomali plains
north of Kabul, you must move through a maze of walled dirt alleys and dip
into the icy fear that chills entire villages.

Along the way, you'll have to interrogate bombastic heroes who claim to have
wrestled and killed these beasts single-handedly, and sift conflicting
descriptions of something like a big dog, or a fox, or a cat.

And just when you are convinced the story is a crazy legend, you will meet
children scarred by cat attacks, and mourn with a man who lost his grown son
to illness after a cat bite.

Whatever it is that is terrifying the villagers on this verdant plain
studded with fruit trees and land mines, people here agree on who is
responsible: the American military.

Until a few months ago, no one had heard the name pisho palang, or tiger
cat, but since then, it has kept villagers indoors at night, terrified of
attack.

A Kabul magazine conveyed the terror with its headline, "In Shomali,
Dangerous Animals Are Eating People."

There are some theories that the cats might have crossed the mountains from
China, or perhaps are domestic cats gone so feral in the country's long wars
that they acquired a taste for human flesh. But few people give those much
credence.

These beasts, the popular view goes, did not just arrive; they were brought
here. In the blinkered certainty of village logic, the arrival of two
unwelcome groups of newcomers, American soldiers and pisho palang, can only
be related.

"Before this new Army came here, we didn't have these cats," said Mohammed
Yakob, 45, from Saidkhail village, near Charikar, north of Kabul.

Even in anti-Taliban areas, the jubilation over America's role in toppling
the hard-core religious government has long faded and resentment against
foreigners is growing. Many Afghans see the American forces as interlopers,
even occupiers, and gossip about their bad deeds and ill intent is rife.

In some parts of the country, angry farmers blame Americans for their poor
opium poppy crops this season, charging that U.S. planes sprayed them with
herbicides - an assertion denied by U.S. officials. In Charikar, they accuse
American servicemen of selling pornographic magazines in the market square.

Near the U.S. base at Bagram airport, just outside Charikar, rumors about
the pisho palang convey the scale of the P.R. problem that the American
military has in Afghanistan.

In an e-mail response to the questions about the rumors, Col. Roger Davis,
of the base press office, rejected the villagers' assertions that American
forces had released the tiger cats, but did not say whether the Americans
thought it important to correct the misconceptions.

"No, we don't use cats, killer cats, Al Qaeda cats, mountain cats, tiger
cats, pussy cats or any other cats to execute combat operations," he wrote.

In the dusty main streets of the villages around here, there's always a
young, brash fellow on the edge of the crowd whose claim to familiarity with
the pisho palang trumps everyone else's. He saw one just last night. He
killed one recently. Or he can sell you one.

"How much do you want for it?" asked Fazel, 25, in Saidkhail village, who
goes by one name. Pursued, he retreats, then admits, giggling, "OK, I'm
lying."

Another local named Faiz Agha says he killed one in mid-June: "It ran at us,
and we killed it. It was like a puppy, the same color as a camel or dust. We
threw it in the river, and it floated away."

But a scornful voice pipes up from the crowd in contradiction: "That wasn't
a pisho palang. It was a baby fox."

At times, the alleged American motives for releasing the pisho palang and
supposed delivery methods strain common sense.

"We heard that foreigners are releasing them at night from planes to eat
people. We heard that usually the tiger cats attack the throat and drink all
the blood," said Mohammed Saber, also from Saidkhail.

Air delivery? But wouldn't the fall kill the cats?

"They fly really low," said Koko Gul, 20, of nearby Monara village, holding
his hands a foot from the ground, "and they just drop the cats onto the
ground."

Fazul Rahim, 28, of Said- khail, said he knew a man who caught a pisho
palang in a net. It had some kind of foreign stamp on its rump, he claimed.

"And some American came and he wanted to buy it for $5,000, but my friend
wouldn't sell it," Rahim said.

He refused $5,000 for a cat?

"Yes. He said, 'Right now, they're paying $5,000, but maybe later they'll
pay more,' " Rahim recounted.

Villagers say four or five people have been killed in cat attacks, cases
that could not be traced. There are tales that dozens of people left
villages in recent months to escape the creature.

In Qoochi village, Gul Afraz, 50, tells a rollicking tale, waving his arms,
leaping up at times, to illustrate his heroism in bare-handedly wrestling
and killing a pisho palang that had attacked a boy three or four months ago.

The tiger cat "attacked like an alcoholic man," he began. "He went for my
throat. I grabbed his throat with my left hand and beat him to the ground
and put my left knee on his belly.

"I had a pocketknife in my pocket; I opened it with my teeth and I stabbed
him in the head again and again. And then he died." Gul Afraz says he buried
the body.

He mentions an Afghan magazine with his name in it and a picture of the
pisho palang. But it was a crudely drawn artist's impression, a
Dracula-feline cross with big fangs, terrifying expression and arched back.

In neighboring Dogh Abad village, the boy who was said to have been
attacked, Rahim Dinn, 8, pulls back a ragged shirt to display scars on his
chest and leg. He describes how the cat attacked before his sister, Mina,
and Gul Afraz intervened.

In Qoochi village, Afsar Kahn, 11, has scars on his torso from an attack in
February.

His cousin Abdul Hadi, 28, killed that cat but was bitten and died a month
later, his body racked by trembling, said Hadi's father, Mirza Mohammed, 58.
He too blames the Americans at Bagram air base.

"Why did they bring these kind of animals?" he asked despairingly. "Some
people think they brought them for security, the way other people have dogs.
Or maybe they just like to keep them."

Others grumble darkly that the American military could have imposed a curfew
in the area but found the pisho palang a much more effective tool.

In Charikar, the main town in the area, Police Maj. Turyalai, 34, said two
dead specimens each had foreign-style white nylon collars around their
necks, which proved that they had been kept by humans.

Fellow policeman Ghulam Sarwar said local people were angry and blamed
Americans. But he chortled dismissively when asked if police had
investigated the matter with American military authorities.

"If we went to the Americans, they'd say, 'No, we didn't release them.' And
who can tell them, 'Yes, you did do it'?"
|| Re: This is just weird|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|08/10/03 at 23:38:57|Richard_F|xx|0|217.44.226.9|Sounds like US millitary propaganda just like the Phillipene "vampire"scare tatics and the "fox spirits" used against the Japanese in WW2||