Tuesday 27 January 2015

I've killed Taliban fighters, says Harry

Gordon Rayner London

Published 22/01/2013 | 05:00

Britain's Prince Harry performs a pre-flight check on his Apache Helicopter after starting his 12 hour VHR (very high ready-ness) shift at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan. Photo: Reuters

Prince Harry has spoken for the first time about killing Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, saying his role was to "take a life to save a life".

The 28-year-old Apache helicopter co-pilot said he had taken insurgents "out of the game" during his 20-week tour of duty, which ended yesterday.

As the crew member in charge of the aircraft's weapons system, the prince had his finger on the trigger of its rockets, Hellfire missiles and 30mm cannon, flying scores of missions to destroy Taliban targets and protect British servicemen on the ground.

He said his job as co-pilot gunner was "a joy ... because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful".

The prince's comments were made in a series of interviews during his deployment to Camp Bastion, but can only now be reported after a media embargo was lifted following his departure from Afghanistan. He is expected to arrive back in the UK tomorrow.

There were fears last night that his comments could inflame tensions in the region and in north Africa, as they became public in the immediate aftermath of the hostage massacre in Algeria, which showed that al-Qa'ida had spread its influence, and its threat to Britons, to new areas. David Cameron said yesterday that Britain was now in a "generational struggle" against "an ideology which is an extreme distortion of the Islamic faith, and which holds that mass murder and terror are not only acceptable but necessary".

The prince, known as Captain Wales in his role with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, shrugged off a question about whether he had killed enemy fighters, saying: "Yeah, so lots of people have. ... Take a life to save a life, that's what we revolve around, I suppose. If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game, I suppose.

"The aircraft does what it says on the tin, our job here is to make sure the guys are safe on the ground and if that means shooting someone who is shooting them, then we will do it."

The prince, whose previous tour of Afghanistan with the Household Cavalry was cut short after a media blackout was broken, said he "hated" being at Camp Bastion, where other soldiers "gawped" at him, and would have preferred to be on foot patrols rather than flying an Apache.

He also suggested his brother, Prince William, should be allowed to fly Chinook helicopters evacuating wounded soldiers in Helmand, saying: "Yes, you get shot at. But if the guys who are doing the same job as us are being shot at on the ground, I don't think there's anything wrong with us being shot at as well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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