All because the magnificent creature bit one of his colleagues who attempted to feed it through the bars of a cage.

Adil Salman Musa, the zoo’s manager, told Reuters the incident happened when a group of American soldiers held a party in the zoo on Thursday night after it had closed.
   
“Someone was trying to feed the tigers,” Musa said. “The tiger bit his finger off and clawed his arm. So his colleague took a gun and shot the tiger.”
   
The night watchman said the soldiers had arrived in military vehicles but were casually dressed and were swilling beer. 

The male Bengal tiger can grow up to two and half metres long, with a shoulder width of up to one metre. They can weigh up to 260kg, as much as three men.

 

One of two
   
The tiger was one of two in the zoo - once the largest in the Middle East. Today the former splendour has been replaced by decrepitude. A collection of dirty cages and sad-looking animals is all that remains.

“Someone was trying to feed the tigers. The tiger bit his finger off and clawed his arm. So his colleague took a gun and shot the tiger”

Adil Salman Mousa,
zoo manager

There was no immediate US comment.

At the tiger's now-empty cage, pools of blood indicate that the soldier passed through a first cage intended for keepers and pressed up against the inner cage's narrow bars.

Musa said US officials came to see him on Friday to discuss the incident.

In April, occupation soldiers killed four lions that had escaped from the zoo. A multitude of other animals were stolen or loosed by looters following the US invasion of Iraq.

Remembering Marjan

The incident recalls a similar encounter at Kabul zoo in Afghanistan. There, a lion known to the world as Marjan, suffered a near fatal encounter with an angry young Afghan fighter.

In the early 1990s, a fighter, apparently showing off in front of his friends, jumped into Marjan's cage. The lion promptly bit his arm off and the man died later in hospital.
 
Seeking revenge, the dead man's friend returned to the zoo and threw a grenade at the lion, which tore into his legs and blew off a side of his muzzle. Marjan was blinded in the left eye.

The 45-year-old lion died of old age in late 2001.