Saturday, March 26, 2011

Britain honours Gurkha soldier for Afghanistan bravery


(AFP) – 10 hours ago

LONDON — A Gurkha soldier who single-handedly fought off up to 30 insurgents in Afghanistan, even using his gun tripod when he ran out of bullets, has been rewarded for bravery, British officials said Friday.

Sergeant Dipprasad Pun, 31, of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, fired 400 rounds, launched 17 grenades and detonated a mine to thwart the assault by Taliban fighters at a British checkpoint near Babaji in Helmand province last year.

The only weapon he did not use was the traditional curved Kukri knife carried by the Nepalese soldiers, because he did not have it with him.

Pun saved the lives of three colleagues who were at the checkpoint and was presented with the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his outstanding bravery at a ceremony in London on Thursday, the Ministry of Defence said.

The medal is a level below the prestigious Victoria Cross, Britain's top award for gallantry.

"I think I am a very lucky guy, a survivor. Now I am getting this award it is very great and I am very happy," said Pun, who is originally from Bima in western Nepal but now lives in Kent, southeast England, with his wife.

Pun was on sentry duty on the evening of September 17, 2010, when he heard a clinking noise outside the checkpoint. Going to investigate, he found two insurgents trying to lay a bomb.

Realising he was about to be attacked, and his platoon were out on patrol, he informed his commander by radio and opened fire on the enemy.

In the ensuing firefight, which saw him bombarded by rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s for more than 15 minutes, Pun moved around his position to fend off the attack from three sides using every type of weapon he could find.

Up on the roof, Pun found himself face to face with a Taliban fighter and fired his machine gun at him until he fell off.

When another insurgent tried to climb up, Pun's gun either jammed or ran out of ammunition so he picked up a sandbag to use as a weapon, but then the contents fell out.

In desperation, he grabbed the metal tripod of his machine gun and threw it at the man, shouting "Marchu talai" -- "I will kill you" in Nepali.

Pun told officers at the time that there were more than 30 attackers, although local villagers later told him there were more likely to be 12 or 15.

He said he thought the assault would never end and "nearly collapsed" when it was over, admitting: "I was really scared. But as soon as I opened fire that was gone -- before they kill me, I have to kill some."

Pun was one of 136 servicemen and women awarded honours Friday, four of them posthumously.

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