LONDON Prince Harry returned home to his relieved father and older brother Saturday after a 10-week Afghan tour of duty that security officials fear could now make him a top target for extremists.
His body armor hanging loose off one shoulder, Harry, 23, descended the steps of a Royal Air Force troop carrier with about 170 other soldiers. He handed some of his gear to his brother, Prince William, and was led by his father, Prince Charles, to a waiting family car, where he took off the bulletproof vest.
Harry, an army cornet, or second lieutenant, left the southern province of Helmand after details of his deployment appeared Thursday on The Drudge Report Web site, leaking news previously kept secret under a pool agreement between the Ministry of Defense and all major news organizations operating in Britain, including The Associated Press.
Military chiefs said they ruled that Harry had likely become a Taliban target and decided it was not safe for him to complete his tour, which had been due to end in April.
"As you can imagine it's obviously a great relief as far as I'm concerned to see him home in one piece," Prince Charles said after greeting Harry at Brize Norton air base in Oxfordshire, southern England.
Police who provide Harry with personal protection in the U.K. are resuming their duties guarding the prince, and Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5 has helped the officers in a review of Harry's security, a government security official said.
In postings on known extremist Web sites, self-proclaimed al-Qaida supporters have called for Harry to be kidnapped and executed since the disclosure of his Afghan tour.
A plan to send Harry to Iraq last year was canceled after British intelligence learned of similar threats by militants to kill him.
"I think now he will be more targeted by the Taliban and al-Qaida supporters than before," radical preacher Omar Bakri Mohammad, a former British resident who is banned from returning, said by telephone from Beirut. "It seems to me he is carrying out war against Islam and Muslims."
A government security official said widespread coverage of the prince's work in Afghanistan would make him an iconic target for terrorists, like other royals, key lawmakers and symbolic London landmarks.