Senior Taliban leader hits out at Prince Harry's claims he killed 25 people in Afghanistan

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on why the Duke of Sussex is being criticised over disclosures from his upcoming memoir

A senior Taliban leader has told Prince Harry the people he admitted to killing in Afghanistan were "not chess pieces, they were humans", as he accused the royal of "war crimes".

Anas Haqqani, a senior leader who was reportedly in a powerful Taliban faction called the Haqqani Network, responded to revelations in the Duke of Sussex's forthcoming memoir 'Spare' that he killed 25 Taliban fighters.

"Mr. Harry! The ones you killed were not chess pieces, they were humans; they had families who were waiting for their return," Haqqani tweeted.

"Among the killers of Afghans, not many have your decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes."

He added that he did not expect the International Criminal Court to "summon" Prince Harry or for human rights campaigners to "condemn" his actions, as they are "deaf and blind" to him.

"But hopefully these atrocities will be remembered in the history of humanity," Haqqani wrote.

Prince Harry wrote in Spare that flying six missions during his second tour of duty on the front line in 2012 to 2013 resulted in “the taking of human lives”, of which he was neither proud nor ashamed.

He reportedly said in the book, which ITV News obtained a copy of, that he did not think of those he killed as people, but instead as “chess pieces” that had been taken off the board.

"So, my number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me," he wrote.

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Colonel Richard Kemp said that Prince Harry's comments were "badly judged", partly due to security reasons and also as they may be seized upon by the Taliban for propaganda use. 

The former head of British forces in Afghanistan also said the comments potentially heighten the risk of attack to citizens in Britain, though he stressed the actual threat level has not gone up, saying he does not want to "overplay" it.

"To stand up and say I killed 25 Taliban, if you are worried about your security anyway all that does it to make your threat to you even greater," he told ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship.

"He was out there ten years ago. Memories don't fade among these Jihadist circles. He certainly very, very publicly reminded them now, and it is possible that his security could suffer."

"I think in terms of maybe a wider concern than that, characterising the British army as being an organisation that trains its soldiers, as he said it does, to regard their enemy as less than human... is completely wrong."

"It is not the approach the army takes, never has been to my knowledge. And it is also damaging because it will be fed into Jihadist propaganda to help radicalise and encourage people to join and attack."

As Prince Harry's frank admissions and provocative accusations continue to divide opinions, ITV News' John Ray heard some of the reaction from both the UK and US

Col Kemp referenced how there has already been comments from the Taliban accusing him of "war crimes", saying they will use this sort of information to reinforce "their anti-British propaganda".

He said Prince Harry had a good reputation among the armed forces as a result of his two operational tours and his "championing of the wounded", but these comments will to a certain extent "tarnish" his reputation in some people's minds. 

"Harry was a very important member of the British military family," he added.

"But now I think that remains. I don't think very many people are going to say, 'well he doesn't do good work, he's not a good guy'.

"But I think they will look at this as being... a bit of a betrayal of the military family in the comments he has made, particularly about the nature of British military training and the ethos of the British army towards their enemy."

He said some of Prince Harry's comments about his time - and mindset - in Afghanistan helps to sell books, with the "primary motivation" to get the memoirs "flying off the shelves".

Joining criticism of the Duke of Sussex over his disclosures, Colonel Tim Collins, a retired British army colonel, criticised him for making the comments in his book, calling it “a tragic money-making scam”.

He told Forces News on Friday: "Amongst his assertions is a claim that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan.

"That’s not how you behave in the Army; it’s not how we think."

Colonel Collins later added: "Harry has now turned against the other family, the military, that once embraced him, having trashed his birth family."

Colonel Richard Kemp said Prince Harry's comments were 'badly judged'

Former commando Ben McBean, who lost an arm and a leg serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan in 2008, and was described by Harry as a "real hero" after they met at several events, tweeted: "Love you #PrinceHarry but you need to shut up!"

This is not the first time Prince Harry has been criticised for disclosures about his time in the military. He was criticised in early 2013 at the end of his tour in Afghanistan when he disclosed that he had killed.

The then 28-year-old told the media that he took the enemy “out of the game” and soldiers "take a life to save a life".

Mr McBean told ITV News that he got to know Prince Harry after he went for rehabilitation a month or so after he was injured in Afghanistan.

Amid security concerns for the Prince, he said the royal "probably" shouldn't have made the Afghanistan disclosures publicly, adding he does not know what "possessed" him to do so.

"Maybe that just stays with you and who you are out there with," he said. "That was not ideal. But he has said it now, and obviously see what happens next."

In Spare - which appeared in Spanish stores ahead of its official release date on January 10 - Prince Harry also revealed how he had called a former army colleague a racist term in 2009.

He claimed he did not know it was an insult as he was isolated from the real world and "wrapped in privilege".