Deb Riechmann / Associated Press & BBC World News – 2010-10-11 21:38:43
“Linda may not have died at the hands of her captors, as originally believed.”
— David Cameron
Kidnapped British Aid Worker
Dies in Rescue Try
Deb Riechmann /Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (October 10, 2010) — A British aid worker kidnapped nearly two weeks ago was killed when one of her captors detonated a bomb as NATO forces were trying to rescue her in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
Linda Norgrove died Friday in Kunar province where she was abducted in an ambush on Sept. 26 along with three of her Afghan colleagues, who were later released.
“Working with our allies we received information about where Linda was being held and we decided that, given the danger she was facing, her best chance of safe release was to act on that information,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.
A NATO official said coalition forces went to a compound in the Nurgal district of Kunar province late Friday where they believed Norgrove was being held. Five insurgents were killed in a gun-battle with NATO forces and a sixth died when he detonated an explosive device, fatally wounding Norgrove, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Norgrove worked for Development Alternatives Inc., a global consulting company based in the Washington, D.C., area.
“We are saddened beyond words by the death of a wonderful woman whose sole purpose in Afghanistan was to do good,” DAI President James Boomgard said.
Norgrove, 36, worked on university-funded projects in Mexico and Uganda and managed a World Wildlife Fund forest program in Peru. From 2005 to 2008, she worked on UN projects that focused on community forestry and horticulture and the environment.
She joined DAI in January and was guiding a program, funded by the US Agency for International Development, to create jobs, boost local economies and strengthen local Afghan leadership to reduce reliance on the cultivation of poppies, used in making opium.
Separately in Afghanistan, four Italian soldiers were killed and another was seriously wounded in a bomb blast Saturday in western Farah province, said Gen. Massimo Fogari, a spokesman for Italy’s Defense Ministry.
The bomb exploded as a 70-vehicle convoy passed by insurgents, and the soldiers came under small-arms fire.
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Petraeus Orders Probe into
Failed UK Aid Worker Rescue
BBC World News
LONDON (October 11, 2010) — The US commander in Afghanistan, Gen David Petraeus, has ordered an investigation into the death of a British aid worker held hostage.
Linda Norgrove’s death on Friday as US forces tried to rescue her was initially blamed on her Afghan captors. But Prime Minister David Cameron said she may have been accidentally killed by a US grenade.
US military sources said surveillance of the operation from overhead and on the ground was conflicting.
The joint US-UK investigation into the failed rescue attempt will be led by US Maj Gen Joseph Votel, the chief of staff of the US Special Operations Command, the sources told the BBC’s Washington correspondent, Adam Brookes.
The investigators will look at surveillance footage of the operation taken by helicopters or pilotless drone aircraft as well as footage from cameras mounted on the helmets of the soldiers on the ground, the sources said.
The different angles reveal “conflicting evidence” as to whether Ms Norgrove was killed by a US grenade, an Afghan suicide vest, or both, they said.
The investigators will also interview the US soldiers who took part in the operation and possibly attempt to return to the site, in a remote and mountainous area of north-eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.
The military sources also identified those holding her as Kumar Taliban. Six of them were killed, none were detained and none escaped, they said. Sources also said there had been no casualties among the Special Forces team that tried to save Ms Norgrove.
It had been thought that she was killed by her abductors just as US forces reached the compound in which she was being held.
But Mr Cameron said Gen Petraeus had telephoned him on Monday morning to say she could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the taskforce during the assault.
Ms Norgrove, 36, from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, was employed by US aid group DAI. She was seized in the Dewagal valley in the Kunar province on 26 September.
Three local staff were kidnapped with her when the two cars they were traveling in were ambushed. The staff were released unharmed last week.
The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul said the Dewagal valley, in eastern Kunar province, where she was held, is known for its difficult terrain. It is mountainous and densely forested. The valley is extremely remote.
The investigation is expected to take several days and the findings released to the public after Ms Norgrove’s family has been informed.
At a Downing Street press conference on Monday, Mr Cameron said 12 meetings of the government emergencies committee, Cobra, had taken place before Foreign Secretary William Hague and the US agreed the rescue attempt should go ahead. This decision was then approved by the prime minister.
He said it was feared that Ms Norgrove life was in danger from the moment she was kidnapped and that she “was going to be passed up the terrorist chain which would increase further the already high risk that she would be killed.”
The prime minister’s office said Mr Cameron spoke to US President Barack Obama late on Monday and both agreed the decision to launch the rescue attempt was right.
“The prime minister and the president agreed that it was now essential to get to the bottom of what had happened in the course of the rescue operation,” a spokesperson for Mr Cameron said.
US officials told the BBC no ransom demands had been received from the kidnappers.
The BBC’s Kabul correspondent said tribal elders negotiating her release had asked Nato not to intervene, to ensure they had more time to secure her freedom.
An officer working for the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s spy agency, said a delegation of mullahs, tribal elders and village chiefs was despatched to the area soon after her capture to negotiate with the militants.
But the coalition forces bombed several nearby locations, forcing the delegation to halt their mission, our correspondent said.
Hostage Linda Norgrove’s Rescuers ‘Ignored Afghan Advice’
Bilal Sarwary / BBC News
KABUL (October 11, 2010) –Afghan intelligence officials, the police and tribal elders say British aid worker Linda Norgrove would have been alive today if the international forces had paid heed to their advice.
They say the Dewagal valley, where Ms Norgrove was held captive, is one of Afghanistan’s most notorious areas. It is a remote mountainous area with unpredictable weather and no government worth the name.
A dialogue with her captors was the only way to secure her release, these people told the BBC.
US and UK governments have maintained a rescue operation held the best chance of a successful outcome for Ms. Norgrove.
They feared she could be passed to a more extremist group, increasing an already high risk that she would be killed.
But an officer working for the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s spy agency, said while a delegation of mullahs, tribal elders and village chiefs was despatched to the area soon after her capture to negotiate with the militants, the coalition forces bombed several nearby locations, forcing the delegation to halt their mission.
He said he had personally requested that commanders of the coalition forces allow the elders to talk to Ms Norgrove’s captors, but the permission was denied.
A local influential mullah from Khas Kunar district said he had spoken to tribal elders in Dewagal valley to put pressure on the militants to release Ms. Norgrove.
He said direct and indirect talks were held with her captors and they were told that taking a woman hostage was against the Afghan culture and a violation of the tenets of Islam.
He said the captors were told that Ms Norgrove was an unarmed aid worker who was helping poor Afghans in the area and that she posed no threat to anyone.
He said Ms. Norgrove would have been walking free today if the authorities had given the elders and the locals a chance. But they instead relied on force, which doesn’t really work in Dewagal, he said.
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