UK officials: Prince Harry serving on front line in Afghanistan

By Jill Lawless

LONDON – Prince Harry has been serving on the front line in Afghanistan with the British Army, calling in airstrikes on Taliban positions and going out on foot patrols, the Ministry of Defense announced Thursday.

Officials said the prince, a lieutenant in the Blues and Royals regiment, was still deployed in the country.

“His conduct on operations in Afghanistan has been exemplary,” said the head of the army, Gen. Richard Dannatt. “He has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else in his battle group.”

Harry, who is third in line to the throne, has been in Afghanistan since December.

The planned deployment had been disclosed to reporters, with no specific date, and was not reported previously under a pool agreement between the Ministry of Defense and all major news organizations operating in Britain, including The Associated Press. The news blackout was intended to reduce the risk to the prince and his regiment.

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    The news embargo was broken, however, after reports of the prince’s deployment were leaked by an Australian magazine and a German newspaper, and then reported on a U.S. Web site, the Drudge Report.

    Dannatt, the military commander, said he was “very disappointed” that the story had leaked.

    Harry, 23, has been deployed in the restive Helmand province for 10 weeks, where most of the 7,800 British troops in Afghanistan are based, according to the military’s statement.

    In a recorded interview, Harry said he was happy to be standing shoulder-to- shoulder with his colleagues.

    “It’s nice just to be here with all the guys and just mucking in as one of the lads,” said Harry, who had expressed bitter disappointment when he was banned from going to Iraq with his battalion last year. Army chiefs said publicity surrounding his deployment could put him and his unit at risk.

    Pooled video footage of Harry in Afghanistan showed the prince dressed in camouflage fatigues patrolling arid and dusty terrain and firing a machine gun.

    Harry graduated from Sandhurst military academy in 2006 and trained as a tank commander. After the decision not to send him to Iraq, he retrained as a battlefield air controller, the job he has been filling in Afghanistan.