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Prince Harry at Camp Bastion during Taliban attack

Published: September 15, 2012 | 6:41 am
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Prince Harry was at Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan at the time of an attack by the Taliban in which two US marines were killed.

A Taliban spokesman told the BBC the attack on the base in Helmand was in revenge for a film mocking Islam.

US officials said small arms, rockets and mortars were used to attack the perimeter of the British base, home to troops from several countries.

Nato told Reuters news agency that the prince “was never in any danger”.

Prince Harry, who is marking his 28th birthday, is in Afghanistan for four months on his second tour of duty.

Friday’s attack targeted the US side of Camp Bastion, a huge sprawling base. There are no reports of any British fatalities.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told the BBC that the target was US and UK soldiers and involved 10 insurgents.

Nato says a “clearance” operation is under way and it is unclear whether the fighting is over, says the BBC’s Jonathan Beale in Kabul.

Describing the attack as “significant”, an MoD spokesman said it was “launched by a number of insurgents on the eastern side of the runway and there has been some damage to equipment which is still being assessed”.

“After swift action by ISAF forces, including UK personnel, the incident was contained with a number of insurgents killed as a result. A clearance operation including UK and ISAF forces is being conducted and we are in the process of accounting for our people.”

Violent protests against Western embassies have swept the Muslim world amid widespread anger over the film.

Protests against the video – Innocence of Muslims – began on Tuesday in Egypt. On Friday, at least seven people died in escalating unrest in Khartoum, Tunis and Cairo.

There are fears of a surge in violence ahead of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

Camp Bastion has a high level of security and is one of the world’s busiest airports because of the large number aircraft taking off and landing.

It includes personnel from the Denmark, Estonia and Afghanistan, as well as the UK and US.

Ahmad Majidyar, of the American Enterprise Institute think tank, told the BBC that Camp Bastion was a more likely target while the prince was there.

“One of the motivations could be the presence of Prince Harry in that camp, because the Taliban some days ago warned that they would target and kill Prince Harry. So they are trying to make a point here,” he said.

Prince Harry’s earlier stint between 2007 and 2008 was cut short after 10 weeks because his presence was leaked by the international media.

For this current deployment, however, the Ministry of Defence has made it clear it is willing to confirm Harry’s role as he will be commanding an Apache helicopter and the threat to him is regarded as “low”.

Captain Wales, as the prince is known in the military, arrived as part of the 100-strong 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps.

Prince Harry is the first member of the Royal Family to see active combat since his uncle Prince Andrew fought in the Falklands War.

The prince qualified as an Apache helicopter pilot in February after 18 months of rigorous training in the UK and the US.

British forces have never lost any of their 67 Apaches anywhere, although there have been two minor crashes.

The Apache attack helicopter is designed to hunt and destroy tanks and is equipped with rockets, missiles and an automatic cannon.

During his previous deployment, Harry was a forward air controller directing planes bombing Taliban positions in Helmand.

BBC

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