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In Nigeria, Prince Harry promotes Invictus Games for veterans

Prince Harry (2nd L) playing sitting volleyball in a match in Nigeria (Kola SULAIMON)
Prince Harry (2nd L) playing sitting volleyball in a match in Nigeria (Kola SULAIMON)

On a three-day visit to Nigeria to promote his Invictus Games, Prince Harry on Saturday played a seated volleyball match with army veterans, most wounded in battle against the country's Islamist insurgency.

The Duke of Sussex arrived with his wife Meghan on Friday in the capital Abuja where they visited a school for an event on mental health in a trip that also saw the prince meet wounded Nigerian soldiers in the northwest.

At an officer's mess complex in Abuja, Harry's team dressed in yellow played off in an exhibition against a team led by Nigeria's chief of defence staff, the country's top commander.

With chants of "Team Harry, Team Harry" when they scored, the prince's team took an early lead with players seated on foam mats, some missing legs.

But they lost the match to the commander's squad Team CDS.

The couple later attended a reception for military families where they were greeted by traditional dancers who also performed acrobatics.

Prince Harry talked about visiting the miltitary hospital in northwest Kaduna State on Friday, where he saw dozens of wounded soldiers. Two of them were positive, one even doing push-ups on his bed.

“What this proved to me, what this reminds me of is the power of seeing what is possible post injury,” the Duke told the reception. "That is what this is all about."

On the Duke's volleyball team was former Nigerian soldier Peacemaker Azuegbulam, who lost his leg in combat in the northeast, and became the first African to win gold at the Invictus Games in Germany last year.

"It's an honour for Nigeria and for Africa to have Prince Harry over," he told AFP before the match.

Before Nigeria, Prince Harry was in London on Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the games.

As with all his trips to the UK since he moved to the United States in 2020, his visit prompted renewed speculation over a reconciliation with his family. But he did not meet with his father King Charles.

Harry, a former army captain who served as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, founded Invictus in 2014. Since then the games have grown, promoting rehabilitation through sports.

He was invited to visit by Nigeria's military command. Chief of Defence Staff General Christopher Musa has praised the experience of Nigerian troops at the Invictus Games.

On Friday, Harry had travelled without his wife to Kaduna in Nigeria's northwest to visit a military hospital and speak with the troops wounded in combat.

On Sunday, the couple will travel to the country's economic capital Lagos to take part in a basketball event and a fundraiser.

Nigeria's military forces are battling armed groups on several fronts.

A grinding jihadist insurgency in the northeast has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced another two million more since 2009.

In northwestern and central states, heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits carry out mass kidnappings for ransom and raid villages from camps hidden deep in remote forests.

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