Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Shot sapper 'saved friend's life'

Patrick Azimkar
Sapper Azimkar was described as an exuberant man

A commanding officer has described how one of his soldiers saved the life of a friend, before he was himself shot dead at a barracks in Northern Ireland.

Sappers Patrick Azimkar, from London, and Mark Quinsey, from Birmingham, were killed outside the Massareene Army base in Antrim, on 7 March.

Lt Col Roger Lewis said Sapper Azimkar pulled a fellow soldier out of the way of the bullets.

Sapper Azimkar's funeral has taken place in south-west London.

Six members of his 38th Engineer Regiment carried his coffin into Guards Chapel for the funeral.

Sapper Azimkar's uncle, Aiden Ferguson, cousin, Sam Ferguson, and Col Lewis addressed the congregation.

Shot sapper 'saved friend's life'

Speaking outside the chapel before the service began, Col Lewis said Sapper Marc Fitzpatrick, who was injured in the attack, attributed his survival to "his best mate Pat's selfless action".

Col Lewis said: "He told me two days ago, 'If it wasn't for Pat I would not even be here - despite the chaos, he was the one who pulled me to the ground and saved my life'."

The commanding officer added: "He never ceased to amaze me with his cheerful approach, regardless of the conditions, regardless of the stress that he was under.

"During training for our deployment to Afghanistan, Sapper Azimkar showed his true grit, determination and long-term promise."

Dissident republicans

The funeral was led by Father Michael Dunne, forces chaplain and Priest of Westminster Cathedral.

He spoke of the "astonishingly complimentary" tributes that he had received from all who knew the young man and said that they referred to "an exuberant man with a great sense of fun".

Following the service, Sapper Azimkar's coffin was taken to a cemetery in Haringey, north London, for a private interment.

There are no words to describe what this senseless killing has done to our family in taking from us our beloved son and brother
Statement from Sapper Patrick Azimkar's family

After the funeral a statement from his family was issued by the Army.

It said: "We are completely devastated by the loss of our beautiful son Patrick.

"There are no words to describe what this senseless killing has done to our family in taking from us our beloved son and brother."

The family said they joined the people of Northern Ireland in their "sincere hope for a return to lasting peace".

The funeral of Sapper Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, was held on Wednesday. Both men had been due to go to Afghanistan.

Dissident Republican group the Real IRA has claimed it carried out the shootings.

The soldiers' deaths came two days before Pc Stephen Carroll, 48, was shot dead by another dissident group, the Continuity IRA, as he attended an emergency callout in Craigavon, County Armagh.

Four men, three of whom are aged 41, 32 and 21, have been arrested in connection with the killings of the soldiers.

Two other men, aged 31 and 27, are being held in connection with Pc Carroll's death.

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