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Prince Harry fights Taliban militants in Afghanistan
February 29, 2008 03:43 IST
Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, has been fighting the Taliban on the front line in Afghanistan, it was officially confirmed on Thursday.
Harry, 23 a Household Cavalry Officer, has spent the past 10 weeks secretly serving in war-ravaged Helmand Province.
The deployment had been cloaked in secrecy under a news blackout deal, agreed across the United Kingdom media to prevent details reaching the Taliban and endangering Harry and his comrades' lives. But the arrangement broke down after news was leaked out on the US website, the Drudge Report.
As part of the deal, a group of journalists had visited the Prince in Helmand, on condition that details would only be publicised once he was safely back in the UK. The deal was arranged after Harry's planned tour to Iraq last year had to be cancelled because of a security risk sparked by publicity.
After the disappointment over Iraq, where Harry was due to work as a Scimitar light tank troop leader, he retrained as a battlefield air controller known as a JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller).
He flew out to Afghanistan on December 14, two months into the current winter tour.
The younger prince spent several weeks working in Garmsir in the far south of Helmand Province, operating just 500 metres from front line work, in another part of the province.
Meanwhile, the British Army's most senior officer, Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt, has slammed the fact that the news about Harry serving in Afghanistan had been published prematurely.
"I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us," he said. Danatt said that the last two months had shown it was 'perfectly possible' for Prince Harry to serve in the same fashion as other army officers of his rank and experience.
"His conduct during operations in Afghanistan has been exemplary," the official said, adding, "Harry has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else in his battle group."
Dannatt said he had decided to deploy Harry in Afghanistan because the news blackout agreement with the media had made the risk manageable.
"Now that the story is in the public domain, the Chief of Defence Staff and I will take advice from the operational commanders about whether his deployment can continue," he said.
Dannatt also appealed to the media to restrain from attempting to report Prince Harry's every move and return to the deal.