KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s Taliban claimed responsibility on Saturday for an attack on a base which U.S. officials said killed two American Marines, saying it was in response to a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad.
Camp Bastion, in southern Helmand province, came under mortar, rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire late on Friday in an attack in which several servicemen were wounded.
“The aim of this attack was revenge against Americans for the anti-Prophet movie,” said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf.
U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to “stand fast” against violence which has spread since the amateurish film of obscure origin triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans on September 11, the eleventh anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
Britain’s Prince Harry was at Camp Bastion at the time of Friday’s attack, but was unharmed.
Earlier this week, the Afghan Taliban said they were doing everything in their power to either kill or kidnap Queen Elizabeth’s grandson in what they dubbed their ”Harry Operations.
“Prince Harry was never in any danger,” Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said, adding that it would investigate whether his presence on the base had motivated the attack.
Britain’s Sky News said a Taliban commander had told the broadcaster that Prince Harry was main target of the attack. Sky’s Kabul correspondent said she checked with a Taliban spokesman, who said the attack on Bastion was indeed in revenge for the Islam film, but that Bastion was chosen as the target because Prince Harry was there.
Sky’s correspondent in Cairo said he had received a fresh statement from a “senior Taliban spokesman/commander”, saying that the confusion over the claims was because there were two Taliban groups attacking the base.
“After saying this attack was mounted in reaction to the video on Islam, it is entirely predictable that the Taliban have changed their tune to say it was aimed at Captain Wales,” a British defense source said on Saturday, referring to Prince Harry.
“The insurgents who mounted this attack, most of whom were killed by ISAF, were nowhere near Captain Wales, who, with other UK and ISAF personnel, was under lockdown.”
ISAF has not confirmed the nationality of the two people killed in the attack on the base.
A spokesman for the Helmand governor said 17 bodies had been discovered and they were all thought to be insurgents killed in the fighting.
In a separate attack in Helmand province on Friday, a roadside bomb killed a British soldier, the Ministry of Defence said.
It was not clear whether the explosion was related to a report by Helmand’s governor that a roadside bomb had killed 12 civilians, including women and children, when their vehicle drove over an explosive device in the same area.
Reporting by Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul, Abdul Malek in Helmand and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Michael Georgy and Nick Macfie