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PRINCE Harry is to be withdrawn from Afghanistan after his security was compromised by international media, the Ministry of Defence confirmed today.

The 23-year-old Household Cavalry officer has been secretly fighting the Taliban in Helmand Province as a battlefield air controller and Spartan light tank commander for the past 10 weeks.

But he is now set to be flown home to the UK after the collapse of a news blackout deal.

The move, which will be a bitter blow to the prince, came after foreign websites leaked details of his deployment.

The leaks finally forced the breakdown last night of an agreement by the British media not to report the fact that Harry was in Afghanistan.

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said: "Following a detailed assessment of the risks by the operational chain of command, the decision has been taken by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of Defence Staff, in consultation with General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, to withdraw Prince Harry from Afghanistan immediately.

"This decision has been taken primarily on the basis that the worldwide media coverage of Prince Harry in Afghanistan could impact on the security of those who are deployed there, as well as the risks to him as a soldier."

It was General Dannatt who faced the task last year of announcing a U-turn on plans to deploy the Prince - a Cornet, or Second Lieutenant, in the Blues and Royals - to Iraq.

Intelligence picked up a series of specific threats to Harry and his comrades in Iraq after details of his planned deployment were announced and received widespread publicity.

It is feared the revelation that the third in line to the throne has been fighting in Helmand would increase the tempo of attacks on British forces by the Taliban.

The statement added: "The decision by elements of the foreign media to report Prince Harry's presence in Afghanistan without any consultation with the Ministry of Defence is regrettable.

"However, this was a circumstance that we have always been aware of and one for which we have had contingency plans in place.

"Whilst it had been intended that Prince Harry should return in a matter of weeks with the remainder of the Household Cavalry Regiment Battlegroup, the situation has now clearly changed."

No details are available on when he will arrive home.


COMMAND: Prince Harry sits in his position on a Spartan armoured vehicle; REAL RISK: Prince Harry sits on his camp bed in his accommodation at Helmand province
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 29, 2008
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