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Friday 15th October 2010 Make us your HOME PAGE  What is RSS?

UK NEWS

BRITISH AID WORKER EXECUTED BY TALIBAN


Sunday October 10 2010 by James Fielding and Marco Giannangeli

A BRITISH aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan has been executed by her captors during a botched rescue mission.

Dr Linda Norgrove, 36, was captured last month when the two-car convoy she was travelling in was hijacked by armed militants.

Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed yesterday that Nato allies and Afghan authorities received details on her location and staged a dramatic raid to free her.

Ms Norgrove was killed by insurgents during the ensuing fi refi ght in the lawless Kunar region.

The former United Nations employee, originally from Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands, had been working for a US company on a project to create jobs and strengthen the Afghan economy.

Leading tributes, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Decisions on operations to free hostages are always difficult.

DEDICATED: Linda Norgrove loved Afghanistan and its people

But where a British life is in such danger, and where we and our allies can act, I believe it is right to try.

“I pay tribute to the courage and skill of all those involved in this effort.”

Seven insurgents were also killed during Friday’s failed rescue bid led by Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

No British troops were involved despite the Special Boat Service having been placed on stand-by over the past couple of weeks.

Mr Hague claimed responsibility for the tragic outcome rested squarely with the Taliban hostage-takers.

He said: “From the moment they took her, her life was under grave threat. Given who held her, and the danger she was in, we judged that Linda’s best chance lay in attempting to rescue her. It is a tragedy that Linda was taken whilst doing the job she loved in a country she loved."

US Special Forces who launched the rescue attempt believe Ms Norgrove may have been killed by an explosion triggered by her captor’s suicide vest.

Other reports claimed she died when her captors spotted special forces approaching and threw a grenade into the room where she was held.

According to reports last night, the pre-dawn raid was launched in mountains close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan after the aid worker’s whereabouts were located to within a few feet.

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Nato troops battled through smallarms fire after storming a family compound in a remote valley and found the body of Ms Norgrove.

A source close to the investigation said: “There was nothing about her injuries that suggested ISAF forces caused her death. She was killed by an explosion, probably caused by a suicide vest held by one of the attackers.”

The American operation is understood to have been launched with the blessing of the British Government.

Ms Norgrove’s 60-year-old engineer father John and her mother Lorna, 62, a former secretary, were too devastated to comment at their home on the remote Isle of Lewis yesterday.

Her 34-year-old sister Sofie, who lives in the South-west of Scotland with her two sons, was also too upset to speak.

Colleagues at Development Alternatives Inc, however, remembered Ms Norgrove as a “wonderful woman”.

President and CEO James Boomgard revealed yesterday that she gave a passionate speech about her work to staff at the company’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, just days before her kidnap.

She was snatched on September 26 along with three Afghan colleagues as she returned to the unstable Kunar region bordering Pakistan to continue a reconstruction programme funded by the American government.

Their convoy was ambushed on a remote road by an armed militia who fended off police in a brief gun battle.

Mr Boomgard said: “This is devastating news. We are saddened beyond words by the death of a wonderful woman whose sole purpose in Afghanistan was to do good. Linda loved Afghanistan and cared deeply for its people, and she was deeply committed to her development mission.”

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Ms Norgrove was a dedicated aid worker and hopefully that legacy of service in a humanitarian cause can be of some comfort to her loved ones.”

Ms Norgrove’s three Afghan coworkers were freed last week but she continued to be held amid reports that Taliban commanders were trying to use her as a bargaining chip to secure the release of neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui.

The 38-year-old, dubbed Lady Qaeda, was jailed for 86 years in New York last month for the attempted murder of US agents and soldiers who were trying to interrogate her in Afghanistan.

Last night the British Embassy in Kabul confirmed an investigation into the doomed rescue mission had been launched although ISAF Commander General David H Petraeus maintained Afghan and coalition security forces did “everything in their power”.

On Lewis, a windswept island off Scotland’s North-west coast, friends of Ms Norgrove were struggling to come to terms with her death.

A neighbour said: “The family are very popular locally and everyone really feels for them at this time.

“Linda was a very clever girl. It is terrible to think she died trying to make a difference in Afghanistan.”

Ms Norgrove is the second British aid worker killed in Afghanistan in recent months. In August, Dr Karen Woo was shot dead with nine colleagues as they returned from taking medical supplies to mountain communities.

James Fielding and Marco Giannangeli


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