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Harry may be barred from Afghanistan too

The Prince originally wanted to spend six months leading a 12-strong armoured patrol in the deserts of Iraq.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2007 18:44 IST

After Iraq, Prince Harry may be barred from serving in Afghanistan as an Army officer, amid mounting concern over the casualty rate among British troops in the war-ravaged country.

In addition to two deaths last week, army sources revealed to Daily Mail on Monday that a single infantry battalion recently saw around a dozen of its soldiers airlifted back to Britain after sustaining critical injuries within a three-week period.

Some other soldiers suffered less serious battlefield wounds and were treated at field hospitals. Intensity of fighting against Taliban has risen markedly in recent weeks as NATO forces try to drive the insurgents out of key areas across Helmand Province where most British troops are based.

The head of the Army, Gen Sir Richard Dannat, announced last month that he was cancelling 22-year-old Harry's planned deployment in southern Iraq at the last minute, owing to fears that his presence would attract more attacks from insurgents and put his fellow soldiers in greater danger.

Harry, a cornet or 2nd Lieutenant in the Blues and Royals Regiment, had originally hoped to spend six months leading a 12-strong armoured reconnaissance patrol in deserts of Iraq.

But intelligence reports of planned attempts to assassinate or kidnap him forced senior defence chiefs to cancel his deployment at the last minute, and his men are now being led by a stand-in officer.

Then it was revealed that there were alternative plans for Harry, third in line to the British throne, to be sent on a low-profile trip to Afghanistan later in the summer, to carry out relatively safe tasks such as training the Afghan security forces.

But the level of violence in Helmand raises questions over whether the Prince would be any safer in Afghanistan than he would be in Iraq.