Fearing that the Taliban had begun weaponizing wildlife, Afghan police in Faryab Province shot a bird wearing a "small antenna and suspicious device," NBC News reported. Upon being hit, the bird "exploded," according to police chief Abdul Nabi Ilham. In an unfortunate twist for all involved, the bird appears to be a vulnerable species called a houbara bustard, rarely seen in Afghanistan. Officials collected what they think are traces of a GPS tracker, not an actual bomb, from the bird.
Though it would mark the first time a Taliban conscript had feathers, there's a long, strange history of enlisting animals in war. Not only have combatants ridden horses or relied on dogs to sniff out bombs, but in World War II, the U.S. military also trained pigeons to pilot simulated missiles, and they strapped actual bombs to bats (neither project was implemented). War dolphins are a more recent - and controversial - phenomenon, with Russia seizing trained Ukrainian cetaceans in March.
But in the mysterious case of the exploding fowl, the devices seem more in line with what conservationists would use to keep track of rare species rather than military or incendiary technology. Amid the feathers and electronic wreckage, the NBC video shows a tag labeled "ECCH," which, as Inquistr noted, is an acronym for Emirates Center for Conservation of Houbara. (The ECCH did not immediately respond to a call for comment.)