Attackers in Afghanistan wore US uniforms To Try to Kill Prince Harry
WASHINGTON (AP) — Coalition military authorities inAfghanistan say the insurgents who attacked a British airfield in southwestern Afghanistan on Friday, killing two U.S. Marines, woreU.S. Army uniforms and destroyed six Harrier fighter jets.
They said in a statement Saturday that about 15 insurgents carried out the attack, describing the attack as well coordinated by insurgents who were "well equipped, trained and rehearsed." Fourteen of the 15 were killed. One was captured.
They said attackers penetrated the base's perimeter and were armed with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests. Besides destroying six planes, they destroyed three refueling stations on the base and damaged six aircraft hangars.
Coalition authorities have not yet identified the two Marines killed. Eight military members and one civilian contractor were also injured in the assault.
Prince Harry was the target of a dramatic Taliban attack on Britain's "impregnable" headquarters in Afghanistan, the terror group claimed last night (Saturday).
The perimeter of Camp Bastion was breached by 19 Taliban attackers armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and automatic weapons in a well-planned raid that shocked senior officers.
Two American marines were killed and five aircraft were damaged or destroyed before Western soldiers led by British troops killed 18 of the raiders and took one prisoner.
The Taliban rushed to claim a propaganda victory, saying they were intending to kill Prince Harry, an Apache helicopter pilot based at Bastion.
They also said they had been inspired to seek revenge by an American-made film that insults the prophet Mohammed and which has prompted attacks on Western embassies in the Middle East.
Qari Youssef Ahmadi, the Taliban's spokesman, said: "We attacked that base because Prince Harry was also on it and so they can know our anger. Thousands more suicide attackers are ready to give up their lives for the sake of the Prophet."
The attack comes just days after the Taliban announced it was launching "Harry Operations" to kill or wound the prince.
The statement was dismissed by the Ministry of Defence which said it was "entirely predictable" that the Taliban would claim that the Prince was the primary target even though he was nowhere near the assault. A senior Army officer said: "This was a determined attack which achieved its aim of getting global press coverage. They are masters of propaganda.
"But they are deluded if they really think they can storm Camp Bastion and kill or seriously injure Prince Harry. The attack was never going to succeed but in reality that was never really its aim."
A major security review was under way last night into how such an assault could be launched on the base, home to 28,000 personnel. The camp is surrounded by the latest fortifications and defences.
The attack began under cover of darkness at about 10pm local time on Friday when 19 Taliban gunmen forced their way through the outer perimeter wire. One report said they approached in Toyota pickup trucks.
Some reports suggest that a five-foot wide hole was cut through a fence when a Taliban fanatic set off a suicide vest to the east of the base, close to the main runway.
The remaining fighters poured into the base firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic weapons. They damaged or destroyed as many as five aircraft - none of them British - including at least one United States Marine Corps Harrier jump jet.
A fuel storage tank and a helicopter maintenance tent were also damaged.
Smoke was still rising from the site yesterday morning, according to footage released by the Taliban which they claimed was of the Helmand perimeter.
It is still not clear whether the gunmen broke into the main base or were confined to the outer perimeter.
British troops from 5 RAF Force Protection Wing (51 Squadron RAF), the RAF Regiment, were first on the scene and helped to repel the insurgents in a gun battle lasting more than five hours.
Several British airmen were wounded in the firefight but none of the injuries was classed as serious.
Senior defence sources said that the Taliban gunmen had posed as farmers in a nearby maize plantation.
It is understood that the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan equivalent of MI5, believes the Taliban monitored activity on the eastern side of the camp for at least two weeks before launching the suicide mission.
Sources said several fighters detonated their suicide vests as British troops approached them, injuring some of the RAF Regiment troops.
The attack is now the subject of a major investigation in which senior officers will want to know how the Taliban was able to attack what is supposed to be one of the world's most secure military bases.
There was deep concern over the fact that the attack had even been launched.
Camp Bastion, which is estimated to occupy an area the size of Reading, is ringed by 30ft wire fences topped with triple concertina barbed wire. Large areas of the base are also protected by a 24 mile long, 30ft high concrete blast wall interspersed with watch towers equipped with floodlights and manned by heavily armed troops.
The camp in the central Helmand desert is completely isolated, with the exception of a few small farms close to the eastern perimeter.
All approaches to the base are carefully monitored and the British protection force is equipped with a variety of surveillance devices and radar which should be able to identify any movement on the ground or in the air to a range of 20 miles.
Given the high levels of security, senior commanders will now try to establish how the Taliban managed to identify and exploit a seemingly unknown vulnerable point in the camp's defence.
One theory being explored last night is that the Taliban may have been given inside information by either a member of the Afghan National Army or a one of the several thousand "locally employed civilians" who work on the base. An MoD spokesman said: "The threat to all our service personnel is continually assessed and all measures taken to mitigate it. The deployment of Captain Wales [Prince Harry] has been long planned and the threat to him and others around him thoroughly assessed.
"Last night's attack was dealt with swiftly by International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel, including UK forces, and several insurgents were killed.
"A clearance operation has been conducted and work to assess and investigate the incident continues."
Captain Wales, as he is known to his colleagues, is part of the 100-strong 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps. He will serve as a co-pilot gunner with the Apache unit for the duration of his four-month tour.
The Prince celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday in the hours after the attack with a message from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who had arranged for him to receive their congratulations before they left for their tour of Asia. Prince Harry first served in Afghanistan in 2008 as an on-ground air controller, but he had to cut the tour short when the news blackout protecting his position on the front line was breached.
It is understood that it will be business as usual for the prince as he comes to the end of his training and is expected to begin taking part in sorties by the end of the week.
The Apache is one of the most lethal pieces of military hardware in Afghanistan. It has taken part in thousands of operations in the past six years and is often the weapon of choice for troops pinned down by Taliban fire. The helicopter carries a variety of weapons including rockets, anti-tank missiles and a chain gun.
The helicopter, which gives both pilot and gunner a huge amount of protection, has also helped in rescue operations.
Attacks have taken place inside and close to Camp Bastion in the past - but none on this scale.
A British soldier was killed in 2009 by a roadside bomb close to the base and in April an Afghan civilian employed on the camp drove a vehicle at a plane carrying Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary.
The attack came on the same day that a member of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was killed in the Nahr-e Saraj region of Helmand.
The vehicle he was travelling in was struck by an improvised explosive device, bring to three the number killed in a week. His next of kin have been informed.
Two other members of ISAF were also killed yesterday in a separate incident in Helmand province.