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Prince Harry homeward bound

Latest update : 2008-03-01

Prince Harry left Afghanistan after news of his 10-week tour was leaked by foreign media, the defence ministry in London confirmed.

LONDON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Britain's Prince Harry flew out
of Afghanistan on Friday after news leaked that he had been 
fighting on the frontline for 10 weeks, defence sources said.

The 23-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth and third in
line to the throne left Afghanistan prematurely amid fears for
his security and for those soldiers fighting alongside him.

He was sent to Afghanistan in December. But for security
reasons and in agreement with the Ministry of Defence, the
British media did not report the deployment.

That agreement collapsed after Web sites in Australia,
Germany and the United States leaked the news on Thursday.

The ministry said the decision to withdraw him was "taken
primarily on the basis that the worldwide media coverage of
Prince Harry in Afghanistan could impact on the security of
those who are deployed there, as well as the risks to him as an
individual soldier".

Harry, the son of Prince Charles and the late Princess
Diana, has been active during his 10 weeks of combat, calling in
air strikes against Taliban positions, carrying out foot patrols
and firing a heavy-duty machine gun at suspected fighters.

It is the first time a British royal has been deployed in
combat since the Falklands war 25 years ago, when Harry's uncle
Prince Andrew flew helicopters.

After his presence became known, there were heightened
concerns he could become a target of the Taliban, al Qaeda or
other Islamist militants operating in Afghanistan, endangering
the prince as well as fellow soldiers.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta hailed Harry's
involvement, calling it "a sign of solidarity for Afghans in
their anti-terror fight ... it shows that the prince is ready to
combat this serious challenge."


When it was announced last year that he could be deployed to
Iraq, militant groups threatened to kidnap or kill him. The
deployment was later cancelled. When it came to Afghanistan, the
military tried a different approach.

The fact the embargo on the deployment held for 2-1/2 months
was a surprise, particularly given the cut-throat, free-for-all
nature of the British tabloid press. But it has also led to a
debate about the media and "backroom deals".

Jon Snow, a British news reader, said the embargo could be
damaging for the media's credibility.

"One wonders whether viewers, readers and listeners will
ever want to trust media bosses again," he wrote on his blog.

Reuters, like other news outlets, agreed to the embargo,
seeing it as similar to those often arranged with banks and
governments to release sensitive information at a specific time.

The only British national newspaper that did not put the
Harry story on its front page on Friday was the Independent.

"The most interesting aspect about all this is the breaking
of the media embargo by Drudge, but we decided that in itself
wasn't big enough to warrant the front page," deputy
editor-in-chief Ian Birrell told Reuters.

As far as the embargo goes, though, Birrell was supportive.

"I don't see a problem at all. I think the media has acted
in a very responsible manner on what has been a difficult
situation in which lives were at risk," he said.

Date created : 2008-03-01