Insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles stormed heavily-fortified Camp Bastion, the British HQ in Helmand, in a deadly assault on the ‘aviation area’.
A commander for the radical Islamic movement told Sky News the Prince was their primary target and secondly as revenge for an amateur anti-Muslim video recently posted on YouTube.
‘We attacked that base because Prince Harry was also on it and so they can know our anger,’ Taliban spokesman Qari Youssef Ahmadi said by telephone.
He added, ‘Thousands more suicide attackers are ready to give up their lives for the sake of the Prophet”.
The 27-year-old Royal arrived on the frontline last week to fly Apache attack helicopters – which have the highest ‘kill rate’.
A Ministry of Defence source said: ‘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.’
Two Marines were killed and several other troops injured in the sickening raid, which a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul described as ‘complex’ and ‘sustained’.
But he added: ‘Prince Harry was in no danger. He wasn’t close to the attack.’
Buckingham Palace refused to say whether Harry was present at the time, but several sources have reported that he was just a few miles away on another part of the base.
Camp Bastion and its neighbouring U.S. base Camp Leatherneck came under rocket and mortar attack before Afghan rebels broke through the perimeter.
The MoD spokesman said: ‘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.
‘As Isaf has confirmed, last night’s attack was dealt with swiftly by Isaf personnel, including UK forces, and a number of insurgents were killed.
‘A clearance operation has been conducted and work to assess and investigate the incident continues.’
Isaf confirmed that 18 insurgents were killed in the attack, and one was captured.
The attack comes just days after the Taliban announced it was launching ‘Harry Operations’ aimed at killing or wounding the prince.
Major Charles Heyman, a former infantry officer and military analyst, said he believed the Taliban’s motive was the anti-Islamic video rather than to target Harry.
‘On balance it is probable that they are grandstanding a bit, but the real reason that attack was mounted was to coincide with all the riots and all the protests that have been going on across the world,’ he told Sky News.
Maj Heyman added that military officials should not withdraw the prince from Afghanistan.
‘On balance I think the right move is to keep him there and let’s just get on with it and get on with what we have to do for the next year and a half or so,’ he said.
The terrifying attack took place as a tide of violent protests sweeping the Islamic world over an anti-Muslim film hit London yesterday.
British diplomats were in fear for their lives, with staff at the embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, locking themselves in as 5,000 angry demonstrators raged and lit fires in an attack on the German embassy next door.
In London, 150 protesters marched on the U.S. embassy chanting ‘burn burn USA’ as the American flag went up in flames, soon joined by the Israeli flag.
There was a call for sharia law to be imposed over Britain. Police made two arrests.
The attack on Camp Bastion is also embarrassing for Britain’s Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who only yesterday raised the prospect on speeding up the withdrawal of British troops from the warzone as he claimed on a visit to Afghanistan that the security situation was improving.
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the attack was on Bastion’s ‘aviation area’.
Officials in Afghanistan said it is too early to know if this attack was motivated by the anti-Islamic YouTube movie that recently went viral on the Internet.
But the presence of Captain Harry Wales – as he is known in the Army – in Afghanistan was feared to have alerted the Taliban who were expected to step up efforts to kill or injure the young officer to land a huge propaganda coup.
The base took indirect and small arms fire, causing major damage to buildings, an aircraft hangar and several military jets.
After Harry arrived at the base last week, a Taliban spokesman vowed to kill or kidnap him ‘using all our strength’.
Zabihullah Mujahid threatened: ‘We have informed our commanders in Helmand to do whatever they can to eliminate him.’
Camp Bastion is a huge base in the middle of the desert shared by British, American, 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 Helmand province.
Harry, 27, is in Helmand on a four month tour, where he is on the frontline in the Nato-led war against Taliban insurgents.
He is known as Captain Wales to his colleagues and is part of the 100-strong 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.
He serves as a co-pilot gunner with the Apache unit, which has the highest ‘kill rate’ in the war.
Harry, who is third in line to the throne, took up his new role two weeks after he was pictured naked in Las Vegas frolicking with girls.
He first served in Afghanistan in 2008 as an on-ground air controller, but he was forced to cut the tour short when the news blackout, which was protecting his position on the front line, was breached.