Prince Harry’s wartime role draws reprisal fears

LONDON (AP) - Prince Harry’s admission that he killed Taliban fighters while working as a helicopter gunner in Afghanistan drew intense British media coverage Tuesday and sparked concerns about possible reprisals.

The 28-year-old prince spoke in a pooled interview published late Monday after he was safely out of Afghanistan. He had spent the last 20 weeks deployed as a co-pilot and gunner in a heavily armed Apache attack helicopter.

Asked if he had killed from the cockpit, the third-in-line to the British throne said: “Yeah, so, lots of people have.”

The response was immediate Tuesday: The Daily Mirror tabloid ran a page-one headline “Royal Sensation Harry: I Killed Taliban” along with a photo of a macho-looking Harry in combat gear and designer shades.

Other newspapers ran similar gung-ho stories about the prince’s military exploits. “Harry: I Have Killed” was the story in the Daily Mail.

Video shot during the prince’s deployment was shown dozens of times on Britain’s major news networks.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Defense Minister Mark Francois praised Harry, saying the prince should be commended for his bravery.

He “has done well for his country,” Francois said, offering kind words for a prince who has occasionally embarrassed the royal family, most recently by being photographed naked as he played strip billiards at a Las Vegas hotel.

Many in Harry’s family have also seen combat _ most recently his uncle, Prince Andrew, who flew Royal Navy helicopters during the 1982 Falklands War. Prince Philip, his grandfather, served on Royal Navy battleships during World War II.

Not everyone was applauding the soldier-prince.

Lindsey German, leader of the Stop the War Coalition, called Harry’s comments “arrogant and insensitive” and raised the prospect that Harry might have accidently targeted Afghan civilians.

Former officer Charles Heyman, who edits a yearbook on British forces, said the prince’s words may raise the already high threat level against him.

“The royal family are all targets, and he now probably becomes the prime target, royal family-wise,” Heyman said. “But he can live with that. He’s a soldier, he knows what he’s doing.”

Heyman said it was commendable that Harry had undertaken such a dangerous and demanding military job.

“By and large, the world’s elite make sure their sons and daughters go nowhere near the firing line. So it brings credit to the royal family, and it’s good for army morale, that Harry’s not sitting back in London saying, `Well done, boys!’” he said.

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