Harry 'should stay' in Afghanistan

Harry is based at Camp Bastion for his second tour of duty, due to last four months Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Prince Harry should not be withdrawn from his military role in Afghanistan despite an attack on the Camp Bastion military compound, defence experts said today.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Friday night's attack, saying it was carried out because Harry was on the base and in revenge for an anti-Islamic film.

The Prince was unharmed, but two US Marines were killed and several more wounded.

Libby Weiner reports

A British soldier from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was killed by a roadside bomb in an unrelated incident on Friday. He died when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.

Next of kin have been told.

Harry, an Army captain, is based at Camp Bastion for his second tour of duty, due to last four months.

US officials said the attack was by heavily-armed insurgents and involved a range of weaponry, including mortars, rockets or rocket-propelled grenades, as well as small arms fire.

The Prince was about two kilometres away with other crew members of the Apache attack helicopters, of which he is a co-pilot gunner, when the attack took place, sources said.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, told The Associated Press:

"We attacked that base because Prince Harry was also on it and so they can know our anger. "Thousands more suicide attackers are ready to give up their lives for the sake of the Prophet."

Prince Harry is expected to start flying missions as a co-pilot gunner Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Tory MP Colonel Bob Stewart, a former commander of British troops in Bosnia, said he did not think the Prince should be pulled out of Afghanistan because of the attack by the Taliban.

"To hell with them. Harry wants to go there and our soldiers want him there. He should stay. "These things aren't set in concrete. "If circumstances really change then we'll make different judgment. "Capturing, killing or hurting Prince Harry would be a huge propaganda coup for the Taliban."

Major Charles Heyman, a former infantry officer and editor of The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom publication, warned against the dangers of "playing into the hands of the Taliban".

"On balance it is a difficult equation but I think he should be kept there. "If we take him away the Taliban will crow that they have just scored a major victory. "The second point is it would affect the morale of the troops on the ground if Prince Harry was taken out just because there was a threat. "The Taliban have been doing these things for five years now," he said. "Bastion is a huge complex. It is really a military city. This is one of those pinprick attacks that went right as they killed two US Marines. But in most of them no-one gets hurt."

The Prince was unharmed in the attack near an airfield at Camp Bastion Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The International Security Assistance Force coalition (Isaf) in Afghanistan said the attack happened near an airfield on the north-east side of the base, which houses American forces in Camp Leatherneck.

A number of aircraft, hangars and other buildings were hit and badly damaged.

"The threat to all our service personnel is continually assessed and all measures taken to mitigate it. "As we stated last week, the deployment of Captain Wales has been long planned and the threat to him and others around him thoroughly assessed. "We stated that any risk posed by his deployment, based on the capability, opportunity and intent of the insurgency, is continually reviewed."

An anti-Islamic film sparked a series of protests and violence across the Muslim world this week.

"After saying this attack was mounted in reaction to the video on Islam, it is entirely predictable that the Taliban have changed their tune to say it was aimed at Captain Wales. "The insurgency who mounted this attack - most of who were killed by Isaf - were nowhere near Captain Wales, who with other UK and Isaf personnel was under lockdown."

British troops training at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Harry, who celebrates his 28th birthday today, arrived in Afghanistan on September 7.

He has been undergoing training to fly operations in Apache attack helicopters and is expected to start flying missions this week as a co-pilot gunner.

Camp Bastion is a huge base in the middle of the desert and is shared with US, Estonian, Danish and Afghan troops.

It is the logistics hub for operations in Helmand, with supply convoys and armoured patrols regularly leaving its heavily-defended gates, to support the military forward operating bases, patrol bases and checkpoints spread across the province.