Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006 5:44 p.m. EST
Iraqi soldiers bit the heads off frogs
and ate the heart of a rabbit as signs of courage on Wednesday at a ceremony to transfer Najaf province, home to one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines, from U.S. to Iraqi control.
A U.S. general called the transfer, under a plan to gradually hand over security and allow the withdrawal of 135,000 American troops, a major step in strengthening the Iraqi government as it seeks to stop sectarian violence.
Politicians, tribal and religious leaders and soldiers watched displays of military prowess and one demonstration, hailed as a display of courage, in which five soldiers stopped before the grandstand to bite the heads off frogs.
A sixth holding a live rabbit slit open its stomach and ate its heart before tossing the carcass to his comrades to chew on.
Under Saddam Hussein's rule, his feared Fedayeen militia carried out similar acts, and in one instance were videoed hunting a fox and then tearing it apart with their teeth.
© Reuters 2006.