New Norgrove shock as fears grow for second UK aid worker

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The Independent Online

Concerns were mounting last night for the safety of a British hostage being held in Somalia, as Save the Children issued a plea for his release.

The aid worker, along with a Somali colleague, was kidnapped on Thursday night by masked gunmen in Adado, a small town close to the border with Ethiopia.

In a statement issued yesterday, a spokeswoman for the charity said: "Save the Children is extremely concerned for his welfare and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release." The unnamed Briton, who also has Zimbabwean nationality, was working as a security consultant for the charity when he was abducted in an armed raid on the compound where he was staying. The Foreign Office has requested the media do not name the man, an experienced aid worker who is understood to be a keen skier and mountaineer.

A pro-government Sunni militia has blamed a smaller insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, for the kidnap, and indicated that the man could be taken to the coastal pirate base of Haradheere. It was confirmed yesterday that Bashir Lugey, the Somali worker who was also kidnapped, has been released unharmed. He claimed that efforts are underway to free his colleague: "The negotiations have started and the local people, who are very sorry about the unfortunate incident, are now conducting efforts to free him from the militants."

Somalia is one of the world's principal areas for holding hostages for sometimes very high ransoms. The scale of these speculative kidnappings has spawned a multimillion-pound business where companies seek "kidnap for ransom" insurance cover. Deals are quietly done to secure the freedom of many victims.

But others, such as Linda Norgrove, are not so lucky. A gruesome plan to ritually execute the Scottish aid worker was the real reason behind the Government's agreement to a risky rescue mission in Afghanistan that resulted in her death, a source told the IoS. He said that Ms Norgrove's captors, angered by the refusal of Britain and the US to negotiate for her release, were set to kill her and put the footage of the murder online.

"They got fed up with trying to negotiate and they were going to try to pass her up the chain of command with a view to ritual execution on the internet," he said.

But the rescue attempt ended in disaster. It took place on Friday 8 October, and ended up with seven dead – including the 36-year-old aid worker. US officials initially insisted that one of the kidnappers had detonated an explosive device. The following day, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, stressed Ms Norgrove had been killed "at the hands of her captors".

Yet by Monday the Prime Minister David Cameron announced a "deeply distressing" development and revealed that Ms Norgrove "could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the task force during the assault". He added that a full investigation would be carried out by both the American and British authorities.

The commander of international forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, spoke to Ms Norgrove's father last week to apologise and offer his condolences. Speaking on Friday, he stressed his "personal commitment" to the investigation and said he was "disturbed" that it had not been clear immediately that a US grenade could have been responsible for her death.

Ms Norgrove's body was flown to RAF Lyneham on Thursday. Her parents, John and Lorna, who live on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, are expected to hold her funeral this week.

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