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'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.