Linda Norgrove coroner praises US forces

A coroner has praised the courage of the US special forces who mounted a botched mission to rescue kidnapped aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan.





Ms Norgrove, 36, was killed by a grenade thrown by a US soldier during the operation.



But Wiltshire coroner David Ridley did not blame him or his comrades for the tragic mistake.



Giving a narrative verdict at her inquest, he said the serviceman "genuinely feared for the safety of the lives of his colleagues and also himself and had to make a critical decision in a fraction of a second".



And he hailed the "bravery and courage shown by the US special forces in even attempting that rescue".



He added: "It's very easy to criticise what happened on that night from the safe confines of a court in Trowbridge, but our lives are not on the line."



Ms Norgrove, from the Western Isles, was helping the Afghan people rebuild their war-torn country when she was seized during an ambush in the Dewagal valley in Kunar province on September 26.



It heard that visibility was so poor the US troops who tried to rescue her had been unaware of her presence as they fired at insurgents and the fatal grenade was thrown.



It also heard details of how close the special forces came to achieving their goal.



Giving evidence at Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner's Court, British Brigadier Robert Nitsch, who helped investigate the incident, said a US soldier had thrown the grenade as he feared his comrades were in danger and had been "thinking at a million miles a minute at this time".



The soldier was part of a team that ventured on to the hostile mountain terrain by helicopter at night on October 8 following intelligence that she had been taken there.



The conditions were challenging, with anyone wishing to traverse the land there having to do so on foot or by pack animal, the inquest was told.



The first time Ms Norgrove was identified as being there was some eight or nine minutes into the mission, he said.



But by then it was too late, as the action took place in just 59 seconds.



First, US troops shot and killed one insurgent as they came on to a terrace near the buildings.



The team then approached along the terrace and at this point Ms Norgrove and one of her captors left one of the buildings, Ms Norgrove stumbling as she went.



This was seen on an enhanced video of the operation afterwards but at the time the troops could not see that she was there.



"Linda was wearing dark clothing, there's no visibility and she's quite slight compared to the insurgent," Brigadier Nitsch said.



Another insurgent appeared and was shot by the troops before a US soldier shot Ms Norgrove's captor, who fell down some steps.



Ms Norgrove also fell to the ground and it was around this time that the grenade was launched.



"One of the team members decides he feels significantly under threat and makes the decision to throw a grenade into the gap between the buildings," Brigadier Nitsch said.



It was this grenade that killed Ms Norgrove, he said.



In the aftermath of the disaster, false information was given that she had been killed by an Afghan insurgent, with the truth not emerging for almost two days.



This was partly because the team leader of the operation believed her captor had blown himself up, the inquest heard.



Brigadier Nitsch said: "The team leader, in a previous tour of Afghanistan, has witnessed an insurgent blowing himself up in front of him. In his mind, that is what has happened here.



"(This was) one of the contributing factors why it wasn't confirmed until later that Linda was killed by this grenade rather than by a suicide vest."



The information that a grenade had been thrown did not emerge at a debriefing after the failed mission, he said, but he assured the inquest that no-one involved attempted a cover up.



"It was a matter of deep regret to the US forces that it took 42 hours for the correct story to get out," he said.



The inquest was attended by her parents, John and Lorna, who live on Lewis in the Western Isles, younger sister, Sofie Corns, 34, and eight-month-old nephew, Tom.



In a statement released after the verdict, the family said it had confirmed what they already knew.



It said: "What we have heard today at the inquest generally confirms the account given last year at the briefing we received following the joint US/UK military investigation.



"A series of chance events all going the wrong way and an error of judgment by one of the special forces resulted in our daughter's death.



"She was a lovely girl, had so much to offer and was such a force for good in the world. We miss her terribly. The whole affair is a tragedy."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power