Corporal Harrison, aged 29, was part of an operation to free hostages from Taliban captivity. Stephen Farrell, a journalist of dual British/Irish nationality, was freed in the operation, which was supported by the Afghan authorities and our NATO allies. Sadly, it was not possible to rescue Mr Farrell’s Afghan interpreter, Sultan Munadi.
The Harrison family made the following tribute:
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.
Corporal John Harrison’s Commanding Officer said:
Corporal John Harrison was an immensely capable, self-effacing and highly likeable soldier with an irrepressible humour. His hallmark was an undemonstrative, yet profound, professionalism; he cared deeply about his work, and more deeply still about those he commanded and served alongside. He was an unflinching and inspirational man with a deep, deep pool of courage, who died as he lived, at the forefront of his men.
He gave his life for his comrades and The Parachute Regiment, both of which meant so much to him. Although his passing is a sad day for us, every member of the unit counts themselves privileged to have known such a tower of strength and we all are deeply honoured to have served alongside him.
Our thoughts and prayers now turn to his family and friends at this most difficult time. We hope that in the midst of their profound loss, they can draw strength from the fond memories that we all share of this remarkable man.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said:
Corporal John Harrison put his life on the line to rescue others. He made the ultimate sacrifice and acted heroically in the face of great danger, in the best tradition of the British Armed Forces and in full knowledge of the risks he faced. My thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades at this difficult time.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Wednesday 9 September 2009:
Last night, Stephen Farrell, a journalist of dual British/Irish nationality, was freed from Taliban captivity in a British operation supported by the Afghan authorities and our NATO allies. He is now safe and well, receiving support from embassy staff and undergoing medical checks. Sadly, we were unable to rescue Stephen’s Afghan interpreter, Sultan Munadi, and we send his family our condolences.
It is with very deep sadness that I must also confirm that, while acting with the greatest of courage in this most dangerous mission, one member of the British Armed Forces lost his life. His family has been informed, and our immediate thoughts are with them. His bravery will not be forgotten.
This operation was carried out after extensive planning and consideration. Those involved knew the high risks they were running. That they undertook it in such circumstances showed breathtaking heroism. I also want to thank the Afghan authorities and our NATO allies for their support.
Hostage taking is never justified, and the UK does not make substantive concessions, including paying ransoms. But whenever British nationals are kidnapped, we and our allies will do everything in our power to free them.
“As we all know, and as last night once again demonstrated, our Armed Forces have the skill and courage to act. They are truly the finest among us, and all of us in Britain pay tribute to them, and to the families and communities who sustain them in their awesome responsibilities.”
The Harrison family has requested that the media respect their privacy at this difficult time.