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.
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."
BBC News | 6 October 2010 | 09:13 GMT
Gunmen in Pakistan have torched at least 10 oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO vehicles in Afghanistan in the latest such attack in recent days. A driver died in the ambush near the southwestern city of Quetta. The number of attacks on tankers has soared in the last week since one of the main routes into Afghanistan was shut by the Pakistani authorities.
The Torkham crossing was closed after three Pakistani soldiers died in a NATO air strike near the Afghan border. Islamabad has not yet said when the Khyber Pass crossing will reopen. In Wednesday morning’s attack, up to 14 gunmen in two pick-up trucks opened fire on the tankers as they were parked by the roadside on the outskirts of Quetta, said police.
BBC Urdu’s Ayub Tareen rushed to the scene after the ambush and was lucky to escape with scratches when one of the blazing fuel tankers exploded. The Lorries were thought to have been en route to a smaller border crossing into Afghanistan that still remains open.
The Pakistani Taliban reportedly said they carried out the ambush – the fourth attack on a NATO supply convoy in six days. Spokesperson Azam Tariq told the news agency AFP: "We will further intensify attacks with the intensification of US drone strikes on us." Unmanned aircraft have recently been targeting militants near the Afghan border on an almost daily basis.
Quetta’s chief of police operations, Hamid Shakeel said, "Gunmen came in two vehicles at daybreak and started firing. This created a stampede and people started running. "Then one of the vehicles went [inside the compound] and they sprinkled petrol on trucks and set them on fire." Mr Shakeel said that security for the trucks was the responsibility of local police while the vehicles were moving. But when they are parked at terminals, protection is the job of private contractors, he added.
BBC News | 1 October 2010 | at 07:31 GMT
Suspected militants in southern Pakistan have destroyed at least 27 tankers carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan, officials said. There have been hundreds of similar attacks in Pakistan in recent years, but this is the first one in this part of the southern province of Sindh. It is not clear if it is linked to a cross-border air strike by NATO that killed three Pakistani troops. Pakistan has blocked supply routes to Afghanistan after Thursday’s air raid. No one has claimed responsibility for Friday morning’s raid in the town of Shikarpur, which is in the north of Sindh province.
The town’s district police chief, Abdul Hameed Khosa, told the BBC the oil tankers – which picked up their load from the southern port of Karachi – were parked in a petrol station at the time of the attack. Up to 15 gunmen opened fire to scare away the drivers, before torching the vehicles, said witnesses. Attacks on NATO supply convoys are rare in southern and central Pakistan, so security forces do not provide the escort that is routine in the north-west of the country.
BBC News | 31 August 2010 | 11:51 GMT
Five American soldiers have been killed in three separate bomb attacks in Afghanistan, NATO said. Home-made bombs, one of the main weapons of the Taliban, were used in the attacks in the east and south, it said. No other details were given. The attacks come a day after seven US soldiers were killed in two bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan. More than 480 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, compared with 521 for all of 2009. Further losses are expected, says the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville from Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
Our correspondent says homemade explosives kill more troops than anything else, and are also to blame for a dramatic rise in civilian casualties which are up 30% year on year. The summer has been particularly bloody for foreign troops with at least 115 deaths reported in the past two months. Meanwhile, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen David Petraeus, said international forces had reversed some of the gains the Taliban had made in recent years in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. But, he added, the militants still retained the initiative in some parts of the country.
BBC News | Saturday, 3 July 2010 | 10:48 GMT
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has overseen the signing in Poland of a key missile base agreement. The deal sets up a permanent US missile base as part of a revamped version of the controversial missile defence shield. Russia opposes a Polish base hosting US missiles. Mrs Clinton said the new deal did not threaten Russia. Mrs Clinton arrived from Ukraine, which was the first stop on a tour of eastern European states. She will later visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.
Mrs Clinton witnessed the signing of the amendment to the ballistic missile agreement with her Polish counterpart, Radoslaw Sikorski, in the southern city of Krakow. Mrs Clinton said the agreement would "protect Poland and our allies from evolving threats, such as those from Iran". She added: "This is purely a defensive system. It is not directed at Russia. It does not threaten Russia." Poland had agreed with the US administration of George W Bush to host a permanent US military base and missiles at a disused airstrip in Redzikowo near the Baltic Sea coast. The amendment to the agreement takes into account changes brought in by President Barack Obama. President Obama scrapped the Bush-era plans to build a major defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Russia welcomed the scrapping of the Bush plan but still opposes the Poland base. Moscow recently said it did "not understand the logic and focus of US-Polish co-operation in this sphere". Mrs Clinton said the door was still open for Russia to take part in its missile defence plans but that so far it had not "responded positively". The
BBC News | Saturday, 3 July 2010 | 07:49 GMT
The new US commander in Afghanistan has called for civilian officials and the military to make a "united effort" to tackle the nation’s nine-year conflict. Gen David Petraeus was addressing about 1,700 guests at the US embassy in Kabul after arriving to take over command. He said that military-civilian cooperation was "not optional". Gen Petraeus is replacing Gen Stanley McChrystal, who was sacked after he and his aides mocked and criticised top US officials in a magazine article. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has now ordered a tightening of the rules covering the US military’s dealings with the media.
Gen Petraeus was addressing Afghan, American and other international guests on the lawn of the embassy on Saturday. "This is an effort in which we must achieve unity of effort and common purpose. Civilian and military, Afghan and international, we are part of one team with one mission," Gen Petraeus said. "On this important endeavor, cooperation is not optional," he said. Gen Petraeus has already warned that the conflict may become more difficult before major improvements are won. He and US President Barack Obama have both insisted a change of personnel at the top does not mean a change in strategy. Gen Petraeus said on Saturday: "This is a tough mission; there is nothing easy about it. But working together we can achieve progress and we can achieve our mutual objective." Gen Petraeus is to meet President Hamid Karzai later on Saturday.
BBC News | Thursday, 1 July 2010 | 06:00 GMT
The Taliban in Afghanistan have told the BBC that there is no question of their entering into any kind of negotiations with NATO forces. It comes after US commanders and the British army chief of staff, Gen David Richards, suggested that it might be useful to talk to the Taliban. The Taliban statement is uncompromising, almost contemptuous. They believe they are winning the war, and cannot see why they should help NATO by talking to them. They assume, perhaps wrongly, that the Americans are in disarray after the sacking of the NATO commander Gen Stanley McChrystal last week, and regard any suggestion that they should enter negotiations with them as a sign of NATO’s own weakness. June, they point out, has seen the highest number of NATO deaths in Afghanistan: 102, an average of more than three a day.
Nowadays it is extremely hard for Westerners to meet Taliban leaders face to face, either in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. But a trusted intermediary conveyed a series of questions to Zabiullah Mujahedd, the acknowledged spokesman for the Afghan Taliban leadership, and gave us his answers. The text runs as follows: "We do not want to talk to anyone – not to [President Hamid] Karzai, nor to any foreigners – till the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan. We are certain that we are winning. Why should we talk if we have the upper hand, and the foreign troops are considering withdrawal, and there are differences in the ranks of our enemies?" This is propaganda, of course – yet many Afghans, even those who hate and fear the Taliban, are coming round to exactly the same view. The Taliban are still deeply unpopular in many parts of the country. Memories are still vivid of the brutal and extreme way they governed from 1996 to 2001. They, together with their supporters, certainly do not represent anything near a majority of the Afghan people.