Taliban exploiting attack on Prince Harry base: Britain

Sep 16, 2012 - 09:48
  • In this photograph taken on September 7, 2012, Britain's Prince Harry (L) is shown the Apache helicopter flight-line by a member of his 622 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, part of 16 Air Assault Brigade at Camp Bastion. PHOTO/ AFP

Britain on Saturday accused the Taliban of exploiting for political gain a deadly attack on the heavily fortified airfield in Afghanistan where Prince Harry is deployed.

An official for the militant group told Sky News that the prince, known in the army as Captain Wales, was the "prime target" of the attack on Camp Bastion in the southern Helmand province which killed two US Marines.

But another Taliban official earlier told AFP that the attack "had nothing to do with the prince", and was in response to a US-made film deemed insulting to Islam, raising accusations that it had changed its story to gain political capital.

"After saying this attack was mounted in reaction to the video on Islam, it is entirely predictable that the Taliban have changed their tune to say it was aimed at Captain Wales," a British Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said Saturday.

The ministry explained that the attackers got "nowhere near" the third in line to the British throne as he was in lockdown with other soldiers at the base.

However, the MoD reiterated that the prince's presence in Afghanistan was constantly being considered.

"As we stated last week, the deployment of Captain Wales has been long planned and the threat to him and others around him thoroughly assessed.

"We stated that any risk posed by his deployment, based on the capability, opportunity and intent of the insurgency, is continually reviewed," added the spokesman.

Taliban armed with guns and rockets stormed the airfield late Friday, killing two US Marines and attacking aircraft in a major security breach.

The militia, which is leading a 10-year insurgency against 117,000 NATO troops, said it carried out the attack to avenge the US-made film that has sparked deadly riots across the Middle East and North Africa.

The attack on Camp Bastion, one of the toughest battlegrounds of the war, started at 10:15 pm (1745 GMT) on Friday and the base was cleared on Saturday morning, said US Army Major Adam Wojack.

General Sayed Malook, the head of the Afghan army in the south, said a suicide bomber blew himself up, blasting a hole in the perimeter wall and allowing insurgents to storm inside with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Eighteen insurgents were killed -- including the suicide bomber -- and another was wounded and captured, said Wojack. They were dressed in camouflage, he said, but declined to say whether it was Afghan army uniform.

The Taliban said Monday it was determined to kill Prince Harry, who is serving in Afghanistan four years after his previous deployment was cut short over security concerns.

"We will do our best to kill Prince Harry and Britain's other troops based in Helmand," the spokesman, who gave his name as Zabihullah Mujahid, told AFP by telephone.

"It is not important for us to kidnap him. We will target him and we will kill him," he added.

The Apache helicopter pilot, who turned 28 on Saturday, hit the headlines last month after he was photographed naked at a party in Las Vegas.

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