Prince Harry returns to Britain and "proud" father

2nd March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Prince Charles said he was "proud" of his son Prince Harry, who returned home Saturday from Afghanistan aboard a British Royal Air Force plane along with 169 other soldiers.

2 March 2008

LONDON. England - Britain's Prince Charles said he was "proud" of his son Prince Harry, who returned home Saturday from Afghanistan aboard a British Royal Air Force plane along with 169 other soldiers.

The Tristar troop transport plane landed at 1129 GMT at Brize Norton air base west of London after the 23-year-old prince was flown out of Afghanistan in what military officials said was for his own safety and that of other soldiers serving with him.

His return came only two days after a media blackout on his deployment in the Helmand Province was broken, creating a major controversy.

Harry, a Blues and Royals "Cornet" or Second Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry, had been in Afghanistan for some 10 weeks before the media blackout was broken. His tour was originally planned to last four months.

Waiting to meet him at the Brize Norton base were his brother Prince William and father Charles, the Prince of Wales, who said he was "enormously proud" of Harry.

"As you can imagine it's obviously a great relief as far as I'm concerned to see him home in one piece," Charles said.

Prince Harry was recalled from frontline service in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province following a "regrettable" leak of news about his presence there in the foreign media, the Defence Ministry said Friday.

"Security considerations come first," Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, adding that the whole country owed Prince Harry a "debt of gratitude" for the courage and bravery he had shown.

The decision to recall Harry by the top brass of Britain's armed forces came less than 24 hours after the prince's 10-week deployment against the Taliban in Afghanistan was reported on a US website.

British media, meanwhile, adhered to a news blackout agreed with the government ahead of his deployment in December, in return for extensive access to coverage of the prince's activities which was to be released at the end of his mission in April.

Meanwhile, a radical Muslim cleric who left Britain in 2005 said that news of Harry's presence in Afghanistan could provoke terrorist attacks in Britain and even make Harry a target at home.

Omar Bakri Mohammad, who faced treason charges in Britain for his support for bombers responsible for terrorist attacks in London, said from Lebanon on Friday called the Prince's participation in the Afghan war a "crime" and photos of him would be used to recruit radicals to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

"By fighting in Afghanistan the Prince had become an ambassador of war," the cleric said.

A close associate of Bakri, Anjem Choudary, was quoted by Britain's Daily Express as saying Harry "will be seen as part of the enemy and so he is a target. This is an illegal war and it should be seen in that light. ... Those who want to carry out operations over here will target Harry."

Ihtisham Hibatullah, spokesman for the British Muslim Initiative, however condemned the comments.

"We opposed the war in Afghanistan and Iraq as well and we think our shouldn't be there. But calling for any sort of violence against the troops or Prince harry individually, that we do not agree with."

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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