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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
All British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
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

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game