'A Leap Into The Unknown'
Updated: 13:40, Wednesday January 17, 2007
Royal Marines have carried out one of the most daring rescue missions ever staged to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade in Afghanistan.
It followed a ferocious battle in which 200 British troops backed by artillery, helicopters and aircraft raided a fort believed to be a major headquarters for Taliban militants.
Officials say that as the troops advanced they were engaged from several insurgent positions.
On retreat they discovered one Marine was missing and four men volunteered to go on a daring rescue mission.
Apache attack helicopters were used to mount the raid.
They have no room for passengers inside, so incredibly the Marines clung to the hand and footholds the crew use to climb in and out of the aircraft.
They then flew into the battle zone to locate Lance corporal Mathew Ford, the pilots also leaving the helicopters to give covering fire.
L Cpl Ford had died in the original attack but his body was recovered.
UK Task Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Rory Bruce, speaking on Sky News, said the heroic action was a "leap into the unknown".
"This is believed to be the first time UK forces have ever tried this type of rescue mission," he said.
"It was an extraordinary tale of heroism and bravery of our airmen, soldiers and marines who were all prepared to put themselves back into the line of fire to rescue a fallen comrade."
Some 46 British service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
Levels of violence are at their highest since the invasion.