Prince Harry will not deploy with his regiment to Iraq following "specific threats" to target him by insurgents fighting British and US forces, the head of the Army said yesterday.
General Sir Richard Dannatt said that his presence in Iraq would expose the 22-year-old Prince as well as the troops serving with him to "a degree of risk that I now deem unacceptable".
In a statement, Clarence House admitted that the Prince was "very disappointed" that he would not be going with his squadron in the Household Cavalry, although a spokesman insisted that he would not quit the Army.
Nevertheless, the decision is likely to throw his long-term military career into doubt.
The Prince has always insisted that he was not prepared to put himself through officer training at Sandhurst only to "sit on my a*** back home while my boys are out fighting for their country". Gen Dannatt said that he had finally reached the decision that the risks were too great after visiting Iraq himself at the end of last week.
"There have been a number of specific threats - some reported and some not reported - which relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual. These threats expose not only him but those around him to a degree of risk that I now deem unacceptable," he said. "Although the soldiers in his squadron and battlegroup are willing to share those risks with him, I am not prepared to export those risks to their families."
A number of leading insurgents have claimed in recent weeks that they had detailed plans to seize the Prince as hostage, even boasting that they had informants in the British camps who would tell them of his movements.
Abu Zaid, a brigade commander in Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army - the most powerful of the Shia militias - said they had been circulating pictures of the Prince taken from the internet to other insurgent groups.
"We will be generous with him. For we will return him to his grandmother (the Queen), but without ears," he was quoted as saying.