For two hours, a civilian contractor held off Taliban commandos with an AK-47, saving the lives of 24 people in a Kabul, Afghanistan, guest house. But while others are praising Chris Turner’s courage, the 62-year-old former hippie refuses to be called a hero.
“The real heroes were the three U.N. guards and the Afghan guards who lost their lives defending all of us,” Turner told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday from Kabul.
In the predawn darkness a day earlier, Turner and more than two dozen others who lived in a walled compound in Kabul were violently awakened by explosions and small-arms fire. The Taliban, who had been concentrating their attacks in the countryside outside the capital, had targeted the compound, where many United Nations workers were living while preparing to monitor a run-off presidential election.
Before the carnage was over, eight people in the compound, including three U.N. guards and two Afghan guards, would be killed. Turner knew them all. “I lived with all those people,” he said.
But no one died among those Turner undertook to protect at the back of the compound.
The attack came without warning. “We heard small gunfire, and then we took a bomb that set the guest house on fire. It was pretty quick. It filled with smoke almost immediately,” Turner said.
He grabbed his AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition and started getting everybody he could out of the four-story guest house. “We were able to get everybody out the back door that we could. There’s a washroom — actually, the maid’s quarters — and everybody was ushered into there,” Turner said.
Meanwhile, Turner stayed in a courtyard outside the room, hoping to keep the Taliban from killing everyone.
At one point, he saw a suicide bomber trying to climb over the compound wall. “He came over the top of the wall, and I was able to shoot at him and keep him at bay so that he turned around and went to the front of the building and exploded himself,” Turner said calmly.
The bearded American repeatedly rejected efforts to label his actions as extraordinary. The reason he was the one holding off the commandos was because he happened to be the one who had a gun, he said.