Prince Harry: Shooting Hellfire Missiles At Insurgents Is Like 'Playing Video Games'
Britain's Prince Harry, who compared shooting insurgents in Afghanistan to playing video games, has probably developed a mental problem, the Taliban said Tuesday.
"There are 49 countries with their powerful military failing in the fight against the mujahideen, and now this prince comes and compares this war with his games, PlayStation or whatever he calls it," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP.
Harry, third in line to the throne, said he had killed Taliban insurgents during a 20-week posting flying scores of missions over the restive southern province of Helmand in an Apache attack helicopter.
As co-pilot, Harry was in charge of the weapons systems in a two-man cockpit, firing Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, rockets and a 30-millimetre gun. He described the weapons systems as a joy.
"It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful," he said in interviews released Monday after the end of his posting.
"This is a serious war, a historic war, resistance for us, for our people," Mujahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"But we don't take his comments very seriously, as we have all seen and heard that many foreign soldiers, occupiers who come to Afghanistan, develop some kind of mental problems on their way out."
Asked by Britain's Press Association if he had killed from the cockpit, Harry said: "Yeah, so lots of people have.
"Take a life to save a life," he shrugged. "If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game."
The last time the Taliban suggested a foreign fighter had mental problems was when an American soldier was arrested on suspicion of killing 16 villagers in their homes during a lone night rampage in March 2012.
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is on trial in the US, facing 16 murder charges. Seventeen of the 22 people killed or wounded were women or children and almost all were shot in the head.
The Taliban have been waging an insurgency in Afghanistan for 11 years since being ousted from power for harbouring al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
During the war, they have faced more than 140,000 troops from over 50 countries but remain a serious threat to the Western-backed government with NATO troops due to withdraw in 2014.
"We have always wanted to capture or kill this prince, but he was mostly kept inside, safe, and in guarded places underground," said the Taliban spokesman, Mujahid.
"At one point when our mujahideen attacked the airport, we were aware of his presence there but he was hastily flown away."
This was a reference to a major Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand last September when Britain's defence minister admitted that Harry had been moved to a secure location.
Taliban commandos, armed with suicide vests, guns and rockets, and wearing US uniforms, breached the outer wall of Camp Bastion and destroyed six US fighter jets in unprecedented damage in the war.
The prince flies a £45-million ($71-million, 54-million-euro) aircraft, part of NATO's uncontested air power in Afghanistan where the Taliban are armed mainly with assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
The Islamists also use suicide attacks and homemade bombs which cause most of the casualties among both foreign troops and civilians in the Afghan war.
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Taliban retaliate after Prince Harry compares fighting to a video game
Afghan militants scornful of Queen's grandson, saying helicopter co-pilot 'doesn't have the brain to know there is a war here'
Prince Harry plays a video game at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, with fellow Apache pilot Simon Beattie. Responding to Harry's comparison of firing from an Apache to PlayStation, the Taliban said: 'I think he has a mental problem, that’s why he is saying it is a game.' Photograph: John Stillwell/Reuters
Prince Harry's remarks that his job as a co-pilot in an Apache attack helicopter required him to "take a life to save a life" may have disconcerted some squeamish westerners. But it was Captain Wales's somewhat blasé attitude to fighting the hardline rebels that has most riled the Taliban.
An indignant Taliban spokesman said the young prince was a coward who ran away from fighting the mujahideen, or "holy warriors", as the militants like to call themselves.
"I don't believe that he participated in the fighting," said Zabiullah Mujahid. "Maybe he has seen the mujahideen in a movie, but that's it."
The young prince's comparing his job as co-pilot gunner to a game on a video console in his interview with the Press Association, reported widely on Monday, appeared to have most needled Mujahid, who poured scorn on Harry's 20-week deployment in Helmand.
He accused Harry, who has now completed two tours in one of Afghanistan's roughest provinces, of cowardice and staying away from the fight.
"I think he has a mental problem, that's why he is saying it is a game," he said. "These kind of people live like diplomats in Afghanistan, they can't risk themselves by standing against the mujahideen."
The spokesman, thought to be several different people who use the same name to speak to the media, had clearly been pondering Harry's widely reported comments before the Guardian contacted him at an undisclosed location on Tuesday.
The prince, who was in charge of firing the Apache's Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, rockets and 30mm gun, called his job a "joy" in interviews released on Monday.
"It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful," he said.
Mujahid concluded that Harry must have been involved in a different war from the Taliban's "historic struggle".
"He never participated in a war operation so that's why he can't see the UK casualties, the UK economic damages and the lost soldiers' lives in Helmand," he said.
In fact the prince is a strong supporter of charities supporting injured soldiers, including Help for Heroes. In 2011 he joined wounded servicemen in a fundraising trek to the North Pole.
Mujahid insisted he was not angry about Harry's remarks because "he doesn't have the brain to know there is a war here".
And he seized on reports that Harry was kept at a secure location last September when a team of 15 insurgents wearing US military uniforms and suicide vests sneaked on to Camp Bastion, the air base where the prince was deployed, killing two soldiers and destroying six Harrier jets.
"There were always bodyguards with him to protect him, always keeping him away from the area of war or making plans to keep him away," Mujahid said.The Taliban have claimed in the past that the prince was a target of their attack on the base.