Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Angry fallout over rescue of reporter

Tributes have been paid to a soldier killed during the rescue of a journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan. Corporal John Harrison (29) from the Parachute Regiment, was described as “a wonderful son, brother and a dedicated soldier” by his family.

He died in a daring pre-dawn operation on Wednesday to rescue Stephen Farrell, a reporter with the New York Times. Mr Farrell, who holds dual British and Irish citizenship, was successfully released during the raid but his Afghan interpreter Sultan Munadi died.

Cpl Harrison's family said: “We are absolutely heartbroken.

“John was a wonderful son, brother and a dedicated soldier who was greatly loved and cherished by all his family and friends.”

His commanding officer, whose name was not released by the Ministry of Defence, described him as “a tower of strength” and “a remarkable man”.

The raid to free the Mr Farrell has been criticised amid claims negotiators were close to a breakthrough. The Prime Minister was consulted, his spokesman said, but only after Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth and Foreign Secretary David Miliband had given the mission the go-ahead.

Downing Street defended the operation, saying it provided the “best chance of protecting life”.

The Prime Minister's spokesman was commenting amid the claims in Kabul by The Media Club of Afghanistan that negotiators were close to freeing Mr Farrell without the need for military intervention.

They also criticised the soldiers as “inhumane” for leaving Mr Munadi's body behind.

Pressed by reporters if the PM personally ordered the raid, he said: “The Prime Minister was consulted, the final decision whether to go or not would have been made by the two Cabinet ministers. ”Whether or not he could have said no at that stage, I actually don't know the answer to that.

My clear understanding is that the decision-making process goes from Cobra to the Cabinet ministers, with the Prime Minister being consulted\[w.mcclelland\]”What we are trying to do here is do something that has the best chance of protecting life.”

The mission to free Mr Farrell has reportedly provoked anger among senior Army officers because he apparently ignored warnings from Afghan police and village elders not to venture into the Taliban-controlled area where he was taken hostage.

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