Page last updated at 08:09 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 09:09 UK

Soldier killed in rescue named

Cpl John Harrison
Corporal Harrison was "greatly loved", his family said

The Ministry of Defence has named the soldier killed during the rescue of a journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan.

Corporal John Harrison, 29, from East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, served with the Parachute Regiment.

Downing Street has defended the decision to rescue New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell, saying it was "the best chance of saving life".

The mission in northern Afghanistan left Cpl Harrison, an Afghan journalist and two civilians dead.

In a statement, Cpl Harrison's family said they were "absolutely heartbroken".

They added: "John was a wonderful son, brother and a dedicated soldier who was greatly loved and cherished by all his family and friends."

Stephen Farrell and Sultan Munadi
Stephen Farrell (left) and Sultan Munadi were held in Kunduz

His commanding officer described him as "immensely capable, self-effacing and highly likeable soldier with an irrepressible humour".

An earlier, unsuccessful, raid took place within earshot of the captives, it has emerged.

The earlier raid was in the wrong location but close enough to alert Mr Farrell's kidnappers, the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner has learned.

He said: "There was in fact an earlier raid before dawn on Tuesday put in by British forces to a location where they thought he was being held. They were just out, they were slightly wrong, but it was close enough for the Taliban who were holding Stephen Farrell to hear this.

"They captured some Taliban on the Tuesday morning. A decision was then subsequently taken to go in a second time."

It was over. Sultan was dead. He had died trying to help me, right up to the very last seconds of his life
Stephen Farrell

The final decision to order the rescue was taken by Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, a government spokesman said.

It followed consultation with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and advice from the government's emergency committee, Cobra.

Mr Miliband told the BBC Mr Farrell had ignored "very strong advice" not to travel into the "extremely dangerous" area in which he was kidnapped, but also said he was "very brave".

"These are very, very difficult decisions and journalists and others can put themselves in very dangerous positions but we have responsibilities for our citizens," he told BBC2's Newsnight programme.

Afghan journalists have blamed Nato troops for the death of their colleague, Sultan Munadi, a journalist who was working as a translator for Mr Farrell.

The Afghan journalists have also suggested the raid was unnecessary because negotiations to free the captives were progressing.

'Enormous repercussions'

But Mr Miliband said: "I can understand the huge emotion. Sultan Munadi was well known to the international journalistic fraternity as well as to Afghan journalists.

"One's heart goes out to his family, to his young child. And that weighs very, very heavily. What I can absolutely say is that that operation took place and was conducted by people determined to rescue both hostages."

Sultan Munadi
I would not leave Afghanistan. I have passed the very darkest times of my country, when there was war and insecurity
Sultan Munadi

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said it acted as a neutral intermediary to seek the journalists' unconditional release.

Jessica Barry from the ICRC said the group had been "in contact with different parties".

Writing in the New York Times, Mr Farrell said he thought there had been an earlier attempt to rescue them.

He said: "On the third night, just before the 3am meal - Muslims breakfast very early to comply with the Ramadan daytime fast - there was a scare. Aerial activity intensified, and there were loud explosions in nearby fields.

"We and the Taliban, took this as an attempt to free us. They fled with us in minutes, racing across open fields in the dark until they found another refuge."

Mr Farrell and Mr Munadi were kidnapped travelling to Kunduz in the north of the country.

They were heading to the scene of a Nato air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers in which a number of bystanders were killed.

Civilian deaths

Military insiders have questioned whether going to an area where anger against the West had been caused by the civilian deaths in the Nato strike was wise.

But Mr Farrell, 46, said his Afghan drivers advised him the road "appeared safe".

Two Afghan civilians also died in the Nato raid, a local governor told the BBC.

Vincent Brossell from Reporters Without Borders

A resident of Char Dara district in Kunduz province, Mohammad Nabi, reportedly said his brother's wife was killed when his home was raided.

The Taliban had turned up there on Tuesday night with their two captives, demanding shelter, Mr Nabi told Reuters.

Mr Farrell has thanked the soldiers who saved him, saying "It wasn't, and never will be, enough".

He also paid tribute to his colleague Mr Munadi, who died "trying to help me".

He said: "I did not know whether the bullets came from in front, to his right or to his left," he said.

"It was over. Sultan was dead. He had died trying to help me, right up to the very last seconds of his life."

This is the second time Mr Farrell has been abducted while on assignment - in 2004 he was kidnapped in the Iraqi city of Falluja while working for London's Times newspaper.

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