Now this is bravery i can admire...
but still it shows the ability of the taliban to adapt and even fight off well armed and armoured western attacks with only the most basic of equipment in comparison.
Doesnt look good for the Western forces there in afghanistan when the winter snows melt...
Strapped to Apaches and dodging fire, how troops recovered fallen comrade
· Marine died during failed attack on Taliban fort
· Four soldiers clung to gunships in rescue effort
Declan Walsh in Islamabad and Richard Norton-Taylor
Wednesday January 17, 2007
It was an extraordinary end to a tragic operation. When Lance Corporal Matthew Ford was shot during an assault on a Taliban fortress last Monday, his comrades mounted a dramatic rescue mission that saw soldiers being strapped to the wings of helicopter gunships as they crossed a river under heavy enemy fire.
The remarkable mission, dubbed "Flight of the Phoenix" by some, did not save the life of the 30-year-old marine who, it turned out, had died instantly from gunshot wounds. But it may gain four courageous marines an honoured place in British military history books.
The drama unfolded during a British assault on Jugroom fort, a Taliban base in Garmser, a district of southern Helmand racked by violence. The riverside fort - a high walled compound ringed by watchtowers - had been under surveillance for more than two months. Military intelligence believed key Taliban leaders were hiding inside and that it was the command headquarters for insurgent activity across Garmser.
On Sunday night a 200-strong British force, led by Royal Marines, launched an operation to flush the Taliban out of the heavily fortified position. They started by launching a diversionary attack on other enemy positions to the north. Then at about 2am, they turned their sights on the real target. B1 bombers and 155mm artillery attacked as a company of marines from 45 Commando gathered on the western bank of the river, across from the fort.
They attacked shortly after dawn, storming across the Helmand river in a convoy of Viking amphibious vehicles. Apache gunships, Scimitar armoured vehicles and 105mm artillery provided covering fire. The commandos raced towards the fort walls, tumbled out of the armoured track vehicles, and started the ground assault.
But the besieged Taliban fighters proved resilient, and sprayed the Z Company marines with gunfire. Within minutes the British force suffered four casualties, mostly gunshot wounds. The commandos leapt back into their Vikings and retreated to the far bank of the river.
Moments later, commanding officers realised that one of their number was missing - Lance Corporal Ford. Reconnaissance aircraft found him lying outside the walls of Jugroom fort, on the far side of the river. It was not clear if he was alive. The soldiers prepared to return in the Vikings - a gambit that would entail enormous risk.
The Apache pilots hovering overhead suggested a less perilous but highly unusual move - they would bring the rescue squad across the river. Two Apaches landed and four volunteer marines strapped themselves to the aircraft wings using harnesses.
Dodging Taliban gunfire - and with four marines lying across the wings in the manner of the heroes of the second world war film Flight of the Phoenix - the two Apaches sped across the river and landed outside the Taliban fort. The marines unstrapped themselves and searched for Lance Corporal Ford. Having recovered his body, they strapped it to one of the Apaches and safely crossed the river.
Defence sources described the rescue as an unprecedented operation. Apaches cannot carry passengers - the small fuselage is crammed with instruments and weapons systems and can barely accommodate two pilots. But there are attachments on the wings to which soldiers can harness themselves in an emergency.
The army did not publicise the spectacular retrieval of Lance Corporal Ford's body in an official account of Operation Glacier Jugroom released last night. "Our intention was to show the insurgents that they are not safe anywhere, that we are able to reach out to them and attack whenever and wherever we choose. To that end the mission was a success," said Lieutenant Colonel Rory Bruce.
The identity of the four marine rescuers remains unknown. But despite their heroism the mission was a failure - the Taliban were not expelled from Jugroom fort, and their defiance may be a harbinger of more hard fighting to come.
Following last year's surprise Taliban resurgence, Nato forces across the south are bracing for an expected spring offensive that may start as early as next month. Some of the toughest action can be expected in Helmand. Already the British military has suffered the first two western combat casualties of 2007. Last Saturday Royal Marine Thomas Curry, 21, was shot during close fighting near Kajaki, in northern Helmand.
Last night friends and comrades paid tribute to Lance Corporal Ford. His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Dewar, said: "Lance Corporal Ford was a popular and gregarious young Royal Marine whose professionalism, reliability, and selflessness as well as his sharp wit marked him out from the crowd."
The eldest of three brothers, he was brought up in Immingham, Lincolnshire. His mother, Joan, said: "We are all devastated by the news of Matthew's death. He was a larger than life character who lived his life to the full. His love for life and his ability to make everyone laugh will always be with us."