Heroic soldier tackles bomb suspect
A soldier has been hailed a hero after leaping unarmed from his vehicle to tackle a suspected suicide bomber.
The man turned out to be a long-wanted insurgent, a bomb-making expert and the highest ranking Taliban operative captured by regular British forces.
Private Lee Stephens grabbed him from the motorcycle after a chase across the desert. But the situation developed into a Wild West-style Mexican stand-off after four Afghans arrived carrying an assortment of weapons.
Soldiers from B Company, 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, based at Durai Junction on highway one outside Gereshk, had pushed into an insurgent hotspot two weeks ago looking to disrupt the enemy.
The soldiers realised they had experienced a lucky escape when the fourth man in a foot patrol spotted an IED just 30cm from his foot. They secured the area, but spotted a motorcyclist when a fire team moved off across open ground.
When the rider came within 30 metres, a barrage of insurgent gunfire opened up from behind him, pinning them down, allowing the bike to speed off. The rider was chased by two Warrior armoured vehicles and Gunner Pte Stephens, 30, from Solihull, did not have time to get his weapon from the back of his Warrior before he jumped off it and managed to detain the suspect.
At this point four men pulled up in two white Toyota Corollas. Two were wearing Afghan police uniforms and two were in civilian clothing. Suicide bombers have been known to disguise themselves as police and uniforms have also been found among weapons caches.
The four Afghans were refusing to show identification, being aggressive and trying to take hold of the prisoner. They pulled weapons, but after a stand-off the soldiers were able to back away and leave with their prisoner.
Lieutenant Colonel Giles Woodhouse, Commanding Officer, 3 Mercian, said: "We know he was highly wanted and was active within the area. He was a known bomb-maker and instructed others in the making of IEDs.
"Pte Stevens action has possibly saved the lives not only of my own soldiers, but also those of the Afghan National Security Forces. That has to be a great result."