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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2008, 14:43 GMT
Prince returns from Afghanistan
Prince Harry returning at RAF Brize Norton
Prince Harry's deployment was subject to a news blackout

Prince Harry has returned to the UK after being withdrawn 10 weeks into a front-line deployment in Afghanistan.

The prince landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where he was met by Prince Charles and Prince William, and left the base after more than an hour.

The Prince of Wales spoke of his "great relief" at his 23-year-old son's safe return from Afghanistan.

Prince Harry's tour was cut short after a news blackout broke, leading to fears he would be targeted by the Taleban.

'Particular frustration'

The prince landed in a Tristar transport plane at 1129 GMT with about 170 personnel, most of them having completed their tours of duty.

The plane was carrying three badly injured soldiers, two of whom were taken off at Birmingham en route to Brize Norton.

Several dozen servicemen filed down the steps from the plane before the prince emerged.

He walked across the tarmac with his colleagues carrying a large kit bag over his shoulder, and made his way to the terminal building.

We owe an enormous amount to those families of servicemen who endure so much
Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales said: "I feel particular frustration that he was removed unexpectedly early because, apart from anything else, he had been looking forward to coming back with the rest of his regiment."

He added: "We owe an enormous amount to those families of servicemen who endure so much and support their loved ones with such understanding. It makes a huge difference.

"I also feel very strongly that we don't often appreciate what the people in the armed forces are doing, putting up with the most impossible conditions, very often in hazardous circumstances in heat or freezing cold, being shot at or rocketed at and goodness knows what else."

After an hour and 10 minutes, Prince Harry left the base still in his combats, with Prince Charles and Prince William. His brother helped Harry carry his kit to their grey Audi.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "The whole country is going to be delighted that Prince Harry has come back safely."

Front-line posting

Speaking before his withdrawal from Helmand province, Prince Harry said he was enjoying being in Afghanistan and away from the British media.

The prince also said he would relish another front-line posting.

"It's something I would love to do," said the third-in-line to the throne.

Prince Harry is a trained soldier. I'm in the service too and I'm pleased for him that he was allowed to go
Deborah, Hampshire, UK

"I don't want to sit around Windsor, because I generally don't like England that much and it's nice to be away from all the press and the papers."

Brize Norton station commander, Gp Capt Malcolm Brecht, said Prince Harry was one of many soldiers returning home at the same time.

He told BBC News: "There's nothing special today actually, this is routine.

"We have pretty much daily flights from Iraq and Afghanistan and he's one of many passengers coming back through here today, between 700 and 800. We look forward to welcoming them all back."

Foot patrols

Prince Harry was sent secretly to Afghanistan in December but was ordered out of the country by defence chiefs on Friday.

He was based in a former madrassa along with a Gurkha regiment, and his role involved calling up allied air cover in support of ground forces and going out on foot patrols.

Editors' blog
A news black-out is unusual, but not unique
Jon Williams,
World news editor, BBC News

The Household Cavalry officer was picked up from manoeuvres and flown to a base at Kandahar to join his flight back to the UK.

The prince's deployment was subject to a news blackout in a deal struck between the MoD and newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and abroad.

The agreement broke down after the story appeared on influential American website The Drudge Report.

The MoD has refused to be drawn on press speculation that Harry's brother, Prince William, will be deployed on board a warship after his Royal Navy training later this year.

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