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'Prince Harry back from Afghanistan'

world Updated: Feb 29, 2008 23:03 IST

AFP
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Prince Harry will be withdrawn "immediately" from Afghanistan after a news blackout on his front-line deployment was broken, Britain's Ministry of Defence said Friday.

The British army had been widely expected to pull the 23-year-old prince out of the war-torn country after a US website broke a news embargo imposed for security reasons when the prince was deployed mid-December.

"Following a detailed assessment of the risks by the operational chain of command, the decision has been taken... to withdraw Prince Harry from Afghanistan immediately," the ministry said in a statement.

The decision was taken primarily because "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 an individual soldier," it said.

It slammed as "regrettable" the decision "by elements of the foreign media to report Prince Harry's presence in Afghanistan without any consultation with the Ministry of Defence."

"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."

The ministry urged the media to maintain a news blackout for the time being, saying: "Until Prince Harry returns to the UK, we would ask that the media refrain from speculating on his current location, timelines and routes."

Prince Harry's posting to Afghanistan makes him the first British royal to be sent into combat in more than a quarter of a century.

His unit was fighting Taliban extremists in the restive Helmand province in the south of the country.