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UK Soldier Holds Off 30 Taliban In Epic Firefight

| by Nik Bonopartis
Sgt. Dipprasad Pun, a Nepali Ghurka soldier serving in the British military.Sgt. Dipprasad Pun, a Nepali Ghurka soldier serving in the British military.

A Nepali soldier earned the U.K.'s second-highest military honor in 2011 for holding off as many as 30 Taliban fighters from overrunning a checkpoint during a night raid in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Dipprasad Pun was one of only four men left at the checkpoint compound on Sept. 10, 2010, the night of the incident. The platoon that normally manned the compound was on patrol securing the road ahead so Afghan civilians could vote in the next day's parliamentary elections, according to the official account of the incident.

The four remaining men were taking turns manning a single covered defensive position on the compound's roof, and Pun was taking his shift when he heard a clanking sound coming from the darkness, according to the Telegraph.

Pun said he thought the sound might have come from a donkey or a cow, but when he moved to take a closer look, he saw two insurgents digging near the checkpoint's front gate, where they intended to plant an improvised explosive device. Pun realized the compound was surrounded and retreated to his fortified position on the compound's roof as the enemy opened fire.

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Pun had his standard-issue SA80 battle rifle, a belt-fed machine gun mounted on a tripod, a grenade launcher, a dozen grenades and a claymore mine, according to the Daily Mail.

The resulting battle lasted 15 minutes, with Pun's position taking fire from rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. The soldier told the Daily Mail he had no choice but to make a stand, and did not expect to live.

"I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die," Pun said, "so I thought I'd kill as many of them as I could before they killed me."

Throughout the intense, short-lived battle, Pun expended more than 400 rounds of ammunition, used all of his grenades, and deployed the claymore to fend off a last push from the Taliban when he had no ammo left.

Pun told reporters that a "huge" Taliban insurgent managed to make it to the roof and was climbing up to his position. He grabbed his rifle and pulled the trigger, but the weapon was either jammed or out of ammunition. Without any weapons, Pun grabbed the machine gun's tripod and used it to beat the oncoming attacker, preventing the man from gaining access to the roof.

Pun's company commander, Maj. Shaun Chandler, arrived after Pun had expended the last of his ammunition and used his last mine.

The citation credited Pun for moving to avoid being flanked, and said he took the offensive initiative despite being outgunned.

"Pun could never know how many enemies were attempting to overcome his position," the citation reads, "but he sought them out from all angles despite the danger, consistently moving towards them to reach the best position of attack."

Pun is a Ghurka, a Nepali soldier whose unit has a long history of serving in the British military dating back to the British East India Company Army in 1816. He's a third-generation Ghurka soldier, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, according to the Telegraph. Since the initial cooperation between British forces and the Ghurkas, the latter have become a storied unit, with dozens of tales of their heroics spun from their time fighting side-by-side with U.K. soldiers. The unit is known for its combat discipline and the bravery of its individual members.

The married soldier, who is now 36 years old, met Queen Elizabeth II, who presented him with the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.  He now lives in Ashford, Kent, the Daily Mail reported.

Sources: Telegraph, Daily Mail, U.K. Ministry of Defence / Photo credit: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011 via Ministry of Defense

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