U.S. grenade might have killed aid worker

NBC | 10/11/2010 | 11:10:37 AM ET

NATO is to investigate whether a grenade thrown by American military forces — rather than a Taliban bomb — killed a British aid worker during a rescue attempt in Afghanistan last week, an alliance spokesman said Monday. Linda Norgrove, 36, died Friday in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province during the raid and NATO initially said her captors had detonated a bomb as the soldiers tried to free her.

Linda Norgrove However, British Prime Minister David Cameron said General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, had contacted his office to say a review of events had revealed evidence indicating that Norgrove may not have died at the hands of her captors.

"That evidence, and subsequent interviews with the personnel involved, suggests that Linda could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the task force during the assault," Cameron told a news conference at his Downing Street office. However, this is not certain, and a full U.S.-UK investigation will now be launched," he said.

‘Deeply distressing development’

Cameron said he had informed Norgrove’s family of the "deeply distressing development" and defended the decision to attempt the risky rescue mission. "I want to assure Mr and Mrs Norgrove that I will do everything I possibly can to establish the full facts and give them certainty about how their daughter died." Cameron said he took full responsibility for authorizing the operation. He said intelligence at the time suggested Norgrove was about to be passed "up the terrorist chain of command", placing her in an even more dangerous situation, meaning it had been urgent to act. "Ultimately the responsibility for Linda’s death lies with those who took her hostage."

Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesperson at NATO headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul, said Monday the rescue mission leader saw video footage of the raid, talked with members of the rescue team, and decided, "it was not conclusive what the cause of her death was." The rescue mission leader spoke with Petraeus, who requested the investigation, Dorrian said. The probe will be led by U.S. Central Command.

Norgrove, who worked for U.S.-funded Development Alternatives Inc. on a USAID project, was abducted in an ambush on Sept. 26 along with three Afghan colleagues who were later released. Six kidnappers also died in the rescue attempt. Her kidnapping highlighted the dangers faced by aid workers in Afghanistan, where insurgents and other armed groups hold sway in many parts of the country.

The rescue attempt was not the first such operation. A raid that freed New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell, a Briton, from his Afghan captors last year provoked anger after his Afghan colleague and a British soldier were killed. Meanwhile, NATO was also investigating Monday the deaths of two civilians in southern Afghanistan a day earlier. Initial reports indicated they were killed in a NATO airstrike.

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