Glasgow & West Scotland

Soldier in journalist rescue 'killed by insurgents'

Cpl John Harrison
Image caption Cpl John Harrison died during the rescue attempt in 2009

A soldier killed during a special forces mission to rescue a journalist in Afghanistan was probably shot by insurgents, an inquest has heard.

Corporal John Harrison, 29, from the Parachute Regiment, was leading his unit to rescue kidnapped New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell.

Cpl Harrison, from East Kilbride, was shot in the head 10 seconds after his unit landed on 9 September 2009.

Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner David Ridley recorded a narrative verdict.

He said he could not say that Cpl Harrison was unlawfully killed because he could not be sure the fatal shot had come from an insurgent weapon.

Recording a narrative verdict, he said: "It is more likely than not that the bullet came from an insurgent weapon, taking into account the type of operation, the known location of enemy forces compared with the location of friendly forces, and the trajectory of the bullet that killed John."

The inquest in Salisbury heard Cpl Harrison led his unit out of the Chinook under heavy and accurate insurgent fire in the special forces-led pre-dawn operation.

Three helicopters were used in the international mission and they landed outside the compound, about seven miles west of Kunduz, which was heavily defended by about 19 insurgents.

Image caption Sultan Munadi (right) also died during the raid, but Stephen Farrell was rescued

Cpl Harrison's "critical" job was to provide a cordon team to give protection to the rescue force and his helicopter landed to the south of the compound with rounds hitting the airframe, while the other two landed to the west.

Major David Austin, from the Royal Military Police, told the inquest: "There is witness evidence insurgents directed accurate and heavy small arms fire, including rocket propelled grenades.

"Cpl Harrison led his team out into the hostile situation without hesitation."

A colleague named in the hearing as Soldier B, who left the helicopter behind Cpl Harrison, said he was shot just 10 seconds after the unit hit the ground and he believed he died instantly.

The hearing was told there was nothing anyone could have done to save the NCO, who was hit in the back of the head. He was airlifted out of the operation after 45 minutes.

Even though it was not possible to identify the calibre of the round, Mr Ridley said he thought it was a 7.62mm round used by insurgents.

"He was conducting with his colleagues a risky operation to recover a journalist that was successful," the coroner added.

Cpl Harrison's mother Elizabeth, father Alan and brother Alan Junior were at the hearing but left without comment.

Mr Farrell, who holds dual British and Irish citizenship, was released during the raid but his Afghan interpreter, Sultan Munadi, also died.

He did not give evidence at the inquest. The New York Times announced earlier that Mr Farrell and three other journalists from the newspaper have now gone missing in Lybia.

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