Hero soldier tells of tackling suspected suicide bomber who was escaping on a motorbike

  • 'My muckers were getting shot at on the ground and I thought "I'm not having that".'
A soldier was hailed a hero after he leapt from his vehicle to tackle a suspected suicide bomber escaping on a motorbike.
Private Lee Stephens made the courageous move after his company came under fire from a group of insurgents.
The brave intervention turned out to be even more vital as it emerged the captured man was the highest-ranking Taliban taken by regular British forces.
But the drama did not end there as the soldiers then found themselves caught up in a 'Mexican stand-off' with Afghans who demanded they hand over the prisoner.
Hero: Private Lee Stephens leapt unarmed from his Warrior armoured car to tackle a suspected suicide bomber
Hero: Private Lee Stephens leapt unarmed from his Warrior armoured car to tackle a suspected suicide bomber
Soldiers from B Company, 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, based at Durai Junction in Helmand Province, had pushed into an insurgent hotspot two weeks ago looking to disrupt the enemy.
On this particular day intelligence reports had filtered through warning of suicide bombers preparing to attack patrols.
The soldiers had already had a narrow escape when the fourth man in a foot patrol spotted a booby trap bomb 30cm from his foot.
They secured the area, but when a fire team moved off across open ground they saw the motorcyclist.
When the bike came within 30 metres, a barrage of insurgent gunfire opened up from behind him, pinning the soldiers down and allowing the bike to speed off.
Lieutenant Martyn Fulford, 24, from Churchdown in Gloucester, was commanding one of two Warrior armoured vehicles 2km away, which both set off to intercept the speeding bike.
'We just pipped him': Lieutenant Martyn Fulford, 24, covered Private Stephens as he tackled the suspect
Lance Corporal Jake Podmore 22,
Chase: Lieutenant Martyn Fulford, left, and Lance Corporal Jake Podmore ordered their Warriors to chase the suspect after he sped away from troops
'We just pipped him,' said the Lt Fulford, 24, who covered Private Stephens as he tackled the suspect
'The driver put his foot down and it was a race towards Highway One. If he reached the tarmac he would have been able to outpace us and escape.
'We just pipped him.
'I had my rifle out of the turret screaming at him.
'Private Stephens ripped his headset off and leapt down.'
Gunner Private Stephens, 30, from Solihull, did not have time to get his weapon from the back of the vehicle. He said: 'I jumped out off the wagon and I grabbed the geezer.
'It was mark one left, mark two right - fists, that was it. No weapons, just my hands.'
'It was mark one left, mark two right - fists, that was it. No weapons, just my hands'
Private Stephens 'goosenecked' the rider, grabbing him around the neck and dragging him towards his vehicle.
Asked what he was thinking at the time, he said: 'My muckers were getting shot at on the ground and I thought "I'm not having that".'
But it was only after searching him that Private Stephens could be sure he wasn't wearing an explosive vest. 'I thought about it afterwards. I was quite lucky to be fair. It could have been nasty,' he said.
'It's like the Wild West out here.'
Lance Corporal Jake Podmore, 22, from Stoke-on-Trent, was commanding the second Warrior. He dismounted and covered Private Stephens with his pistol.
He said of his friend: 'He was like a little hero running out.'
Then four men then pulled up in two white Toyota Corollas. Two were wearing Afghan police uniforms and two were in civilian clothing.
This put the soldiers on their guard as suicide bombers have been known to disguise themselves as police.
The four Afghans refused to show identification and acted aggressively, trying to take hold of the prisoner.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Jonathan Werrett, 31, and Corporal Robert Hirst, 28, both from Walsall, and Lance Corporal Ashley Coxon, 25, and Lance Corporal Matt Ryder, 23, both from Burton upon Trent, were running across the desert to back up the Warrior crews.
Sergeant Werrett said: 'It was a case of kit on, good to go, skiing down gravel as we headed down hill towards the road.
'It took us about seven minutes to do 2kms. It was pretty hard going, midday, 30-35 degrees, with up to 60kg each on our backs.'
They arrived on the scene as one of the four Afghan men claimed the detainee had murdered his brother. He said he would die before leaving without the prisoner.
Lance Corporal Matt Ryder, Lance Corporal Ashley Coxon, Corporal Robert Hirst and Sergeant Jonathan Werrett ran 2km across rugged terrain in a few minutes to give backup
Lance Corporal Matt Ryder, Lance Corporal Ashley Coxon, Corporal Robert Hirst and Sergeant Jonathan Werrett ran 2km across rugged terrain in just a few minutes to provide back-up
Corporal Ryder cuffed the detainee and put him in the back of a vehicle. But the Warriors had to leave to support another team coming under fire.
Sergeant Werrett, Corporal Hirst and Lance Corporal Coxon were left in a face-off against the Afghans. The sergeant, whose wife was nine months pregnant at the time, said: 'They were moving around their vehicles. One seemed to be deciding on his weapon of choice.
'He picked up a PKM (machine gun) first, loaded that, then went back in and got an AK47 for the rest of his crew.
'He then sat in the vehicle with the weapon pointing in our direction. We were slightly undermanned.
'I gave the three of us some target identification if it all went south.'
They each assigned a target, with one left over, and only two or three metres from the Afghans, they knelt down on one knee to make themselves as small a target as possible.
Sergeant Werrett said: 'All we needed was some tacos and we would have been in a Mexican stand-off.
Lieutenant Colonel Giles Woodhouse, Commanding Officer, 3 Mercian, praised Private Stephens bravery
Lieutenant Colonel Giles Woodhouse, Commanding Officer, 3 Mercian, praised Private Stephens' bravery
'We stood there looking at each other. We had our weapons down, they had their weapons pointing at us.
'We just waited for the situation to calm down.
'And slowly, without saying a word, we began to move away from each other and that was it.'
The suspect cannot be named for security reasons.
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.
'He was the highest level of insurgent that has been detained by soldiers from Task Force Helmand to date and for that we are extremely proud.
'Private Stephens' 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.'
But Private Stephens denied that he was a hero. 'I was just doing my job at the end of the day,' he said. 'My muckers were getting shot at and I was hopefully doing what they would do for me in the same situation.'
The soldier signed off from the Army before the tour but said he might change his mind and stay.
He said he had told his mother, Linda Stephens, who works in a bakery, and his girlfriend, Gayle Reynolds, 32, a nurse at Solihull Hospital about what he had done.
'My mum was a bit gobsmacked. My girlfriend kept saying to me, "No wonder I'm going grey".'
SUICIDE BOMBER KILLS TOP AFGHAN POLICE CHIEF
A suicide bomber killed on Friday the police chief of Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, a stronghold of the Taliban-led insurgency, after penetrating tight defences at the police headquarters.
Khan Mohammad Mujahid, one of the most prominent government targets in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous provinces, had survived two previous attacks, one on his home and one on his motorcade as it travelled through the city.   
Police headquarters are tightly guarded and there would likely have been a further ring of security around Mujahid's office where the attack took place.    
It was not immediately clear how the attacker had smuggled his explosives in.   
Two other policemen were wounded in the attack said Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesman for the provincial governor.
 
 
Copyright © Chief Of War
Powered by Sinlung