A US Marine killed during the Taliban’s rampage at Camp Bastion has been identified as the commanding officer of a Harrier squadron and one of the highest-ranking foreign soldiers killed during the 11-year Afghan war.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Raible was one of two Marines who died when a squad of insurgents, dressed in US Army uniforms, made their spectacular incursion onto the base in Helmand Province which houses thousands of foreign troops, including Prince Harry. The 15 insurgents, all of whom except one were killed, destroyed six Harrier jump jets and seriously damaged two others, during a protracted firefight with coalition forces and made it one of the Taliban’s most destructive and successful operations.
Lieutenant Colonel Raible, 40, and fellow Marine, Sergeant Bradley Atwell, 27, died in last Friday night’s assault, which also wounded five British troops. The deaths of high-ranking soldiers have been remarkably rare during the war. In February, another US lieutenant-colonel and a US major were killed when an Afghan policeman shot them dead inside a protected area of the Ministry of Interior in Kabul.
The Taliban said the assault on Camp Bastion was in revenge for the video they said insulted the Prophet Muhammad but officials cast doubt on that claim, saying it appeared to have required a degree of planning that predated the release of parts of the video on the internet. Raible, a pilot, was a member of Marine Attack Squadron 211, and had previously served in Iraq.
“The deaths of Lieutenant Colonel Chris ‘Otis’ Raible and Sergeant Bradley Atwell are a stark reminder of the selfless service and extraordinary sacrifices made by our Marines and sailors and their families each and every day,” said Brigadier General Steven W. Busby, commanding general, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
During the Friday night incident, 15 Taliban fighters staged a “well-coordinated attack” on the perimeter of Camp Bastion, armed with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests. The 15 attacked fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, aircraft hangars and other buildings, according to International Security Assistance Force officials.
Six Harrier jets and three refueling stations were destroyed, officials said. Also, two additional Harrier jets were damaged and six “soft-skin” aircraft hangars were damaged. In a firefight, 14 of the Taliban fighters were killed and one was captured. In addition to the two Marine fatalities, eight other NATO coalition personnel and one civilian contractor were wounded. The attack is under investigation, the Marine Corps said.