By Awadh al-Taie in Baghdad (ICR No. 65, 01-Jun-04)
Some people describe the image as merely two camel spiders joined together. But many Fallujans say the picture shows a giant spider sent by God to attack US troops in the battle for their town in April.
"The soldier says that it runs fast - about 40 kilometres per hour. It is poisonous and it makes a screaming sound," said a poster in the mosque, entitled "Miracle of God in Fallujah".
Although no Fallujans interviewed by IWPR claimed to have seen the beasts, many had heard tales about them.
"A spider emerged from the railway tracks near the Golan neighbourhood," said Abid Bin Allawi Ubeid, 32, a public servant in Fallujah's electricity department. "It killed 60 Marines."
The heavenly arachnid is just one of several supernatural entities, including white-robed horsemen and doves, said to have taken up the fight against US forces.
Ubeid said he had heard of white doves which hovered over Marine snipers and gave away their positions, as well as phantom white-robed knights on white horses who attacked the American troops.
One insurgent, who refused to give his name, claimed to have experienced divine intervention during the fighting.
Although he fired 150 rounds from his PKS machinegun at two Apache attack helicopters from a hilltop near al-Thirthar lake, the fighter said he was protected from being spotted. "It was a veil made by Almighty God," he said.
The insurgent even credits divine intervention for the US decision not to press its attack on the city, "God sent these creatures to support us. I can't imagine that the Coalition forces would have been unable to deal with a city like Fallujah, especially when you see their equipment and numbers," he said.
Local religious leaders support such claims, too.
"Such things can be, because God has soldiers on earth and in the sky," said Sheikh Jamal Shaker, the imam or leader of a local mosque.
Shaker himself said he was aware of at least one miracle in which the bodies of fallen mujahidin or fighters did not decay, but instead "smelled of musk".
Awadh al-Taie is a trainee journalist with IWPR in Baghdad.
</i>What's even scarier than a gigantic man-eating spider? The fact that this story was actually covered by an organization claiming that is "improving the capacity of local journalists to produce balanced and accurate reporting in the public interest, the activities are designed to contribute to public understanding of political issues within the region as well as internationally".