US forces disciplined over British aid worker's death

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The Independent US

Members of the US special forces have been disciplined after an investigation into the death of British aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan revealed she was killed by a grenade thrown by her would-be rescuers.

The 36-year-old from the Western Isles died in a blast in Kunar province on October 8 during a failed rescue attempt led by American forces.

Ms Norgrove, a former United Nations employee, was working for the firm Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) when she was captured in the Dewagal valley during an ambush on September 26.

Initial reports suggested she was killed when one of her captors detonated a suicide vest.

An investigation led by US Major General Joseph Votel and British Brigadier Robert Nitsch found that she died when a grenade was thrown into a gully.

Intelligence suggested the aid worker was being held in a group of buildings higher up the mountain and it was only when they returned that they found her body.

Reporting to the Commons today, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that although US soldiers reported their use of a grenade, senior officers did not become aware until they examined video footage.

Mr Hague said: "The investigation team found that the failure to disclose information that a grenade was thrown breached US military law.

"As a result, members of the rescue team have been disciplined for failing to provide a complete and full account of their actions in accordance with US military procedure.

"I cannot announce any more details of the disciplinary action taken by the military of another nation, but the fact that this action has been taken will confirm to this House how seriously the US authorities regard this matter.

"As a result of the investigation the US military is reviewing post-operation procedures to ensure that the true sequence of events in such complicated operations is revealed earlier, and more accurately than was the case on this tragic occasion."

Based in Jalalabad, Ms Norgrove was supervising US Government-funded reconstruction programmes in the eastern region of Afghanistan when she was captured by militants.

Mr Hague told the Commons he authorised the rescue attempt amid fears that her captors would pass her higher up the Taliban chain of command or move her to more inaccessible terrain.

He said the rescue force was chosen for its knowledge of the area, specialist training, and experience in carrying out hostage rescue operations.

The captors were traced to two small groups of buildings in the mountainous region.

Mr Hague said: "One of the two teams of soldiers landed near the lower group of buildings.

"As the soldiers progressed towards these lower buildings, Linda Norgrove's captors came out and were engaged by the soldiers who were advancing on a narrow ledge and under threat.

"A grenade was thrown by a member of the rescue team who feared for his own life and for those of his team, towards a gully from which some of the insurgents had emerged."

The Foreign Secretary said the team then moved on to the other group of buildings.

He said: "It was when they returned to the first location that it became apparent that Linda had been taken by her captors into the gully into which the grenade had been thrown, and where her body was now discovered."

Mr Hague paid tribute to Ms Norgrove's parents John and Lorna who set up a charitable foundation in her memory to carry on her work in Afghanistan.

He said the couple, who he met with today, had shown "inspiring strength, dignity and fortitude throughout their terrible ordeal".

The Norgroves said in a statement: "We are grateful to have been briefed in detail by the UK and US military officers who led the inquiry into Linda's kidnapping and subsequent failed rescue attempt.

"We would like some time to digest this and the contents of the report before we make any further comment."

An inquest into Ms Norgrove's death will be concluded in the New Year.