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MARINE KILLED BY ENEMY FIRE; Brave comrades tried to save Michael, 21.

Byline: LAURA JONES

A SINGLE Taliban bullet killed a Merseyside Royal Marine serving in Afghanistan, an inquest heard.

Michael Mick Laski, from Croxteth Park, was hit in the face by enemy fire while on patrol in the Sangin district of Helmand Province.

Yesterday at an inquest into the 21-year-old's death, held in Birmingham, coroner Aiden Cotter heard the young marine''s comrades ran to his side under a hail of sustained enemy fire to administer emergency first aid.

Marine gunner Grant Guy will be awarded the military cross for his actions on February 23, 2009.

Shortly after the fire fight Mne Laski was airlifted to Birmingham Selly Oak hospital where he died two days later.

A signal operator with Yankee company, 45 Marine Commando, Mne Laski was one of 80 marines taking part in a search of suspected enemy compounds outside forward operating base (FOB) Inkerman when insurgents opened fire.

Comrade Cpl Mark Goldsbury told the inquest: At 5.45am just before first light we left the FOB. My understanding was we were going to be doing a rumage of the compound for weapons caches and things of that nature.

The operation concluded, Cpt Ralph Cotterell leading the marines gave orders for the men to carry out a carefully choreographed withdrawal from the area.

Mne Laski was bringing in the rear of his company when the firefight broke out.

Cpt Cotterell said: I felt they were better Taliban fighters. It was sustained and accurate [fire].

The company engaged the enemy, but at first struggled to identify their attackers who were firing from several different elevated points within another compound. Giving his men the order to take cover in an irrigation ditch, Cpt Cotterell prepared Yankee company to dig in for a fight.

But Mne Laski and Gunner Guy found themselves more than 20m away and were forced to adopt the prone position in open ground.

Gunner Guy told the inquest: I shouted over to him a few times to make sure he was ok. I had no response.

The marine from Nottingham then ran out under enemy fire to help coordinate a rescue effort, before returning to Mne Laski.

I ran across the open field to the North West. I gave the doctor his brief so he could get to work straight away.

A small wound less than a centimetre to Mne Laski''s face showed where he had been shot. The bullet damaged his spinal cord and a vital artery, causing him to lose consciousness immediately.

Coroner Cotter said: I record as a conclusion Mne Michael Laski was killed by the enemy while on active service for our country. I would just like to add that each time I hold an inquest for the armed forces I''m impressed by the professionalism of those involved and the bravey they have shown.

Mne Laski''s dad Michael Snr stood after the inquest to address the servicemen. I would like to thank the marines for their work at the time and the bravery they showed in giving help, he said.

CAPTION(S):

SHOT: Royal Marine Michael "Mick" Laski, who died while serving in Afghanistan. Inset: His funeral last year
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Oct 16, 2010
Words:524
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