The US-led forces fighting the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan might soon encounter 'gun-totting' monkeys, trained for 'jihad', if a rumour doing the rounds in the Chinese media is to be believed.
NATO officials and military experts have scoffed at the report originating in the Chinese media, which says that the Taliban are training monkeys to fight the US-led military. The New York Post cited the state-run People's Daily as saying that the Taliban is "training monkeys to use weapons to attack American troops".
"... the Taliban forces have tried any possible means and figured out a method to train monkeys as 'replacement killers' against American troops," Stars and Stripes quoted the Chinese daily as saying. The militants were arming the primates with AK-47 rifles, machine guns and trench mortars in the Waziristan tribal region bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, it claimed. The monkey soldiers are being turned into snipers at a secret Taliban training base and are in turn being rewarded with 'bananas and peanuts'.
"We have absolutely nothing that leads us to believe that this tale could be even remotely based in reality," said NATO spokesman Lt Col Todd Breasseale when asked to react on the report.
Christopher Coe, director of the Harlow Primate Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, questioned the authenticity of the pictures that were carried with the report, showing a primate grinning next to a machine gun.
"To my eye at least, it is a baboon, which lives inAfrica," Coe said. "The more common monkey that lives in that part of the world is a rhesus monkey. They live in India and can also be found in China. But this photo is not of a rhesus monkey". Coe said the noise of weapon fire would certainly scare most animals.
"While you could train a monkey to shoot a gun, I certainly wouldn't want to be anywhere in the neighbourhood after that. I rather doubt you could trust its aim," he said.