Prince Harry was moved to a secure location during the Taliban's brazen attack on Camp Bastion, according to a harrowing new report by GQ magazine on the Sept. 14, 2012, nighttime raid.
Two U.S. Marines died and more than a dozen American and British forces were injured in the four-hour attack that began when 15 Taliban members, dressed as U.S. soldiers, cut through a perimeter wire fence and sneaked onto the British base in Afghanistan.
"The insurgents moved silently and swiftly in the dark, their packs heavy with weapons and ammunition, their sneakers padding gently against the hard dirt underfoot," Matthieu Aikins, a Kabul-based reporter, wrote in GQ.
"They had split into three teams of five. The first group cut through the concertina wire at a bend in the fence on the edge of the perimeter. There were floodlights and guard towers every few hundred yards, but the soldiers manning them seemed oblivious. The team slipped through the second line of wire unnoticed and crept forward into the empty, broken terrain between the outer fence line and the airfield. Ahead, the lights of the airfield shone brightly, the orange light washing over the Marines' heavy transport helicopters; then the Ospreys, helicopter-plane hybrids; the attack helicopters, Huey gunships and sharklike Cobras; and at the far end, the "fast-movers," snub-nosed Harrier jump jets, loaded down with bombs and rockets."
Their reported intended target: Capt. Harry Wales, as Prince Harry was known on the base:
He had arrived for a three-month tour flying an Apache helicopter, prompting a Taliban threat to kill or kidnap him. "We have informed our commanders in Helmand to do whatever they can to eliminate him," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had told the press four days earlier. The military laughed off the idea. "That's not a matter of concern," NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen retorted. The Taliban infiltrating a base called Bastion and carrying off the fourth in line to the British throne? Absurd.
Absurd? Maybe. But once British forces heard a series of explosions and realized insurgents had infiltrated the base, Harry was "stashed in a secure location," according to GQ.
The report would seem to contradict comments published by the Daily Mirror earlier this year in which the 28-year-old royal said he fired on the Taliban during the attack on Camp Bastion and had killed insurgents during his tour.
“Yeah, so lots of people have," Harry said. "The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount."
He added: "Take a life to save a life. That’s what we revolve around, I suppose."
There was plenty of confusion during the Sept. 14 firefight, GQ reported: "The trouble was distinguishing friend from foe. The attackers were wearing U.S. Army uniforms, and they were mixed in with Marine positions." The "Harrier compound was a mess of burning jets, and down by the fuel farm there was another confused gun battle where the Marines had encountered the two teams of Taliban."
The U.S. Army uniforms the Taliban wore during the raid were likely "stolen from supply trucks and sold in Pakistan" and came with "proper ranks and name tags."
The raid on Camp Bastion came three days after the attack on an American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four people, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed, and a day before Prince Harry's birthday.
In an interview with a documentary film crew earlier this year, Harry compared piloting a military helicopter to playing video games.
“It’s a joy for me because I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox," the 28-year-old said. "So with my thumbs I like to think I’m probably quite useful."
The Taliban quickly condemned Harry's comments.
“This statement is not even worth condemning. It is worse than that,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told London's Telegraph. “To describe the war in Afghanistan as a game demeans anyone — especially a prince, who is supposed to be made of better things.”