Nato defends failed bid to rescue British aid worker

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The Independent Online

NATO has defended the failed attempt to rescue a British aid worker taken hostage in Afghanistan who was killed during the operation on Friday.

Linda Norgrove died after the suicide vest of one of her captors exploded, either because the wearer was shot or had deliberately detonated the device. Her parents said yesterday that they were "devastated" by her death.

Officials in Afghanistan claim that they were close to negotiating a peaceful release of Ms Norgrove when Nato launched the rescue attempt.

Khalillullah Zaiyi, the police chief of Kunar province, where the abduction took place, said a delegation of 22 local elders had arranged a meeting with the insurgent group holding her when US special forces carried out their operation.

He pointed out that a number of previous kidnappings in the notoriously lawless region had been resolved through talks.

But Dominic Medley, a Nato spokesman, said "everything possible" had been done to save Ms Norgrove. Underlining that she was killed by her captors, he called the mission a "valiant and courageous effort". Western commanders were deeply apprehensive that she would be taken across the border into Pakistan's terrorist safe havens if an attempt to free her was delayed.

After a tip-off revealed her whereabouts, US troops were sent in to rescue Ms Norgrove, who had been abducted in an ambush on 26 September along with three Afghan colleagues who were later released. Six kidnappers also died during the rescue attempt.

British and American authorities stressed that insurgent captors alone were responsible for the death of Ms Norgrove, 36, who was from the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles.

"There is nothing at all to suggest that US fire was the cause," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

Meanwhile there was more violence in Afghanistan yesterday. Roadside bombs killed seven people including two Nato soldiers, bringing the total number of Nato forces killed in the country this month to 26. A suicide bomber also blew up his vehicle near a military convoy, killing a child and wounding two others.

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