Revealed: How Prince Harry was whisked to Camp Bastion safe-house as US Marines battled Taliban suicide-squad who infiltrated base in assassination attempt
- September 2012 Camp Bastion raid was a Taliban raid that killed two United States Marine Corps (USMC) service personnel and destroyed or severely damaged eight aircraft
- The total cost to the United States military was $200 million
- The British base in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan was home to serving military officer Prince Harry
- The raid on the aircraft was also an assassination attempt on the Prince’s life by the Taliban
By James Nye Daily mail PUBLISHED: 5 September 2013
Prince Harry was frantically rushed into a heavily secured safe-house during the Camp Bastion raid of September 2012 as 15 heavily armed Taliban soldiers ran amok in the British base, a new report claims.
The fourth-in-line to the British throne was serving at the base in Afghanistan when fighters dressed in U.S. Army uniforms unleashed a ground assault on September 14th and destroyed or damaged eight aircraft worth a total of $200 million.
Two U.S. Marines also lost their lives in the melee described as ‘the worst loss of U.S. air-power in a single incident since the Vietnam War’ and Captain Harry Wales, identified as a legitimate military target by the Taliban, survived the four hour battle that raged inside the base which had been thought to be impregnable.
Soldier Prince: Britain’s Prince Harry at Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan in this photograph taken December 12, 2012, and released January 21, 2013. The Prince, who served as a pilot/gunner with 662 Squadron Army Air Corps
Prince Harry had arrived for a three-month tour flying an Apache helicopter, prompting the Taliban to threaten 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 British military laughed off the idea. ‘That’s not a matter of concern,’ said NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Published in GQ magazine’s September magazine, the untold story of the raid paints a picture of heroism and co-operation between the militaries of the United States and the United Kingdom.
The complex assault unfolded around 10 p.m. under a moon-less night as the Taliban suicide squad approached the heavily guarded perimeter fence of the British military base, which had become a virtual city in the six years since it was first established.
Several square miles in size, Camp Bastion is home to 28,000 service personel from the United States and British forces in the Helmand Province of war-torn Afghanistan.
Splitting into three groups of five, the men cut through the fence wearing American military uniforms and evaded the floodlights and guard towers that dotted the perimeter.
Entering the base on the eastern side of Camp Bastion near to the United States Marine Corp aircraft hangers, the heavily armed soldiers unleashed RPG fire at the $30 million Harrier fighter jets parked on the ground.
Captain John Buss was savoring a cigar at the end of his day by the Marine’s hanger, that being the only pleasure or vice available to the serving men and women because Camp Bastion was dry.
He heard gunfire inside the base and noting this was weird squinted his eyes to see a group of men approaching the fighter jets.
Suddenly one of them produced a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher and fired at one of the Harriers causing it to detonate into a fireball.
At the very same moment, helicopter-squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Lightfoot felt his office rattle with the vibrations from the explosion.
He initially thought the blast meant the base was coming under attack from Taliban mortars but when he opened his door to see what was going on he saw two Harrier jets ablaze and billowing smoke.
It was then that he heard the small-arms fire too and the awful realization that the base, previously thought of as impregnable, was coming under a ground assault.
He rushed to ready any aircraft he possibly could and resolved immediately to put two Cobra attack helicopters into the air in addition to one Huey, general purpose chopper.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Raible, 40, a Harrier fighter pilot was looking forward to a Skype date with his wife when the battle commenced.
He was one mile away from the conflagration, but put himself into a jeep and drove cautiously to one of the hangers to a maintenance building where he saw three jets on fire.
Finding a dozen mechanics barricaded inside the building, Raible knew that British support was almost two miles away and that if they were to survive, he had to lead his men in a brave rearguard action.
Although none of these men had entered combat before, each one of them was a serving Marine and therefore trained in basic infantry tactics.
‘All right, I need ten Marines to go take the fight to these guys,’ he told them, and watched as each one of them gripped his rifle and stepped forward to volunteer.
Indeed, as the battle raged, it became apparent in the confusion that the Camp Bastion’s size was proving to be a weakness.
Support was not arriving on time and coupled with the fact that the Marines could not tell friend from foe was hampering the efforts to stop them in their tracks.
Another man interviewed by Matthieu Aikins for GQ was Staff Sergeant Gustavo Delgado, 27, who was in the nearest barracks.
A native of Chicago’s rough neighborhood of Logan Square, Delgado was sitting with other sergeants talking about their difficult childhoods, watching Tupac Shakur’s movie ‘Juice’ when the attack exploded.
Rushing to help his comrades, Delgago saw a figure firing towards the cryo-facility – where the Marines produced oxygen and nitrogen for their jets – and took aim.
Delgado knew that if the Taliban fighters managed to blow up the cryo-unit the blasts would be more deadly than any RPG.
This was the first time that Delgago had fired his weapon in anger and he told GQ that he marveled at how clinically he took the insurgents life.
As the three groups of five were pinpointed and tackled, the first American life was lost – Sergeant Bradley Atwell.
He was hit by an RPG just as another officer, Major Robb McDonald, arrived on the scene having run to his men.
He was met with a confused and demoralized force, who informed him that in addition to Atwell, Lieutenant Colonel Raible had perished too.
Within an hour of the attack the situation had become clearer to the shell shocked Americans and the Marines.
The insurgents had not made it past the air wing and the military hardware and another group of five Taliban were trying to destroy the cryo-fuel unit.
The Harrier compound and hanger was a burning mess and while the British had finally joined the fight, after first having secured Prince Harry in a secret location.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the attack the Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly attack and Al Jazeera‘s Afghanistan correspondent Bernard Smith reported that in addition to the coordinated raid targeting the aircraft and fuel, Prince Harry was the target of an assassination attempt.
However, at the time, British military officials said that Prince Harry was never in any danger during the attack.
As the fight continued, both sides realized the battle with the fanatical Taliban could potentially descend into hand-to-hand combat.
They needed to get aircraft up and involved in the fight.
The problem for the helicopter pilots was distinguishing friend from foe.
How could they tell the American soldiers apart from altitude if they were all wearing the same uniforms?
It was then that one ingenious chopper pilot had a brilliant idea: He radioed the base and told the friendly ground troops to fire in unison towards the enemy.
This lit up the targets and as soon as they were revealed he unleashed his Cobra attack helicopters powerful twenty-millimeter cannon on the Taliban.
According to GQ, ‘Delgado and his men, still pinned down by machine-gun fire, heard the rush of a helicopter coming in, followed by the roar of a chain gun. God what a beautiful sound, Delgado thought. The cryo plant lit up with hundreds of small explosions as the rounds impacted.
‘The Marines around him erupted in cheers.’
Using a similar technique the Huey that was now airborne opened fire near to the hangers headquarters.
‘The gunship fired, and hundreds of rounds tore into the enemy, their bodies jerking back in a macabre dance before crumpling to the tarmac,’ writes Aikins in GQ.
Mopping up the Taliban insurgents, the search continued until 2 a.m. and by the light of dawns first morning the full extent of the damage was clear.
Six Harrier jets destroyed, an Air Force C-130 transporter blown to smithereens, $200 million in military equipment gone, two dead Marines and a dozen injured British and American soldiers.
Even worse was the fact that a completely secure military base had been totally compromised.
All but one of the insurgents were killed, while the remaining fighter was injured and captured.
The Taliban claimed the attack was in response to the film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’ and that Prince Harry was the target of the attack.
Relatives of the injured raged that the British and Americans had become lax in their safety protocols because they were scaling down their presence in Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps didn’t initially launch a formal investigation into the attack—the kind that could lead to reprimands—and it has refused to release its after-battle inquiries according to GQ
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