October 18, 2010 / 1:21 PM / 7 years ago

UK defense boss calls for Harry drama to be dropped

<p>A scene from "The Taking of Prince Harry".Channel 4/Handout</p>

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The head of Britain's armed forces has written to broadcaster Channel 4 to urge it not to show a "dramatized documentary" examining what might happen if Prince Harry were kidnapped on military duty in Afghanistan.

The 90-minute program called "The Taking of Prince Harry" is due to be aired Thursday, and recreates a helicopter crash in the south of Afghanistan and the subsequent capture of Queen Elizabeth's grandson, who is third in line to the throne.

Harry served with British forces in Afghanistan in 2008, becoming the first member of the royal family to see action since his uncle Prince Andrew flew helicopters in the Falklands War in 1982.

"We can confirm that (Air Chief Marshal) Jock (Stirrup) sent a letter to the chairman of Channel 4," a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said. "It was a private letter and it would be inappropriate to comment on its contents."

The letter was partly motivated by what Stirrup viewed as a lack of respect by program makers for troops serving in Afghanistan and their families back home, a defense source said.

Reports have said that the film includes a scene in which the actor playing Harry is made to appear in Taliban and al Qaeda propaganda. It also features contributions from intelligence analysts and people who have been taken hostage.

Channel 4 came under fire when it announced the film earlier this month, with The Sun newspaper's in-house security expert Andy McNab saying it was "in bad taste."

Harry, 26, has spoken of his desire to return to Afghanistan, which he was forced to leave prematurely after news of his presence there was leaked.

Channel 4 said earlier this month that it contacted the royal family about the film, but had received no response.

When asked about Stirrup's letter, a spokeswoman for the broadcaster replied:

"We have written to ... Stirrup replying to his concerns. The film is rooted in expert testimony and is a serious journalistic examination of a current issue. It treats the subject matter sensitively.

"It is a legitimate subject for documentary to explore the risks that Prince Harry faces as a high value target, and to seek to understand the full nature of the dangers to a royal in the modern theater of war as well as the political implications of a high profile kidnap."

Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison

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