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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 23:49 GMT
Prince Harry on Afghan front line
Prince Harry in Afghanistan
The prince's deployment was subject to a news blackout

Prince Harry has been fighting the Taleban on the front line in Afghanistan, the MoD has confirmed.

Harry, 23, who is third in line to the throne, has spent the last 10 weeks serving in Helmand Province.

The prince joked about his nickname "the bullet magnet", but said: "I finally get the chance to do the soldiering that I want to do."

The deployment was subject to a news blackout deal, which broke down after being leaked by foreign media.

Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt, who is head of the British Army, said he was disappointed the news had leaked.

In a statement, he said: "I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us.

"This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude that the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number overseas, who have entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations."

It's very nice to be sort of a normal person for once
Prince Harry

Sir Richard said he would now take advice on whether the prince's deployment could continue.

The news blackout followed a voluntary agreement between the MoD and newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and abroad.

In exchange for not reporting the prince's deployment, some media organisations were granted access to the prince in Afghanistan for interviews and filming.

The Society of Editors said the deal could have been broken at any time over the past eight months.

The whole of Britain will be proud of the outstanding service he is giving
Gordon Brown, Prime Minister

The BBC's media correspondent Torin Douglas said it was surprising the agreement held for so long, as an Australian magazine and website published the story in January.

But it was only when it appeared on the influential US political website, The Drudge Report, that the agreement broke down, our correspondent said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Prince Harry had been an "exemplary soldier".

"The whole of Britain will be proud of the outstanding service he is giving," he said.

"I want to thank Prince Harry and all of our service personnel for their contribution and service."

'No showers'

Prince Harry - a member of the Household Cavalry - has been based in a former madrassa along with a Gurkha regiment, in southern Helmand.

He is acting as a tactical air controller - calling up allied air cover in support of ground forces.

He also goes out on foot patrols.

In an interview while in the Afghan province, Harry talked about life as a soldier on the front line.

"I haven't really had a shower for four days, I haven't washed my clothes for a week.

"It's very nice to be sort of a normal person for once, I think it's about as normal as I'm going to get.

"I am still a little bit conscious of the fact that if I show my face too much in and around the area - luckily there's no civilians around here because it's...a no-man's land.

Prince Harry is very proud to serve his country on operations alongside his fellow soldiers
Prince of Wales's spokesman

"But I think that if, up north, when I do go up there, if I do go on patrols in amongst the locals, I'll still be very wary about the fact that I do need to keep my face slightly covered just on the off-chance that I do get recognised, which will put other guys in danger.

"The Gurkhas think it's hysterical how I am called the 'bullet magnet', but they've yet to see why."

The deployment comes after the prince's planned tour to Iraq last year had to be cancelled because of a security risk.

Speaking ahead of this tour, Harry spoke of his relief over the mission.

He said he felt: "a bit of excitement, a bit of phew, finally, [to] get the chance to actually do the soldiering that I wanted to do ever since I joined really."

The Prince of Wales's communications secretary, Paddy Harverson, said: "Prince Harry is very proud to serve his country on operations alongside his fellow soldiers and to do the job he has been trained for."



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