US troops disciplined over grenade death of British aid worker

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The Independent Online

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

Ms Norgrove, 36, from the Western Isles, died in a blast in Kunar Province on 8 October during a failed rescue attempt led by American forces. Ms Norgrove, a former UN employee, was working for the firm Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) when she was captured in the Dewagal valley during an ambush on 26 September. Initial reports suggested she was killed when one of her captors detonated a suicide vest, but an investigation led by US Maj-Gen 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, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that although US soldiers reported their use of a grenade, senior officers did not become aware of it until they examined video footage. He 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.

"The fact that this action has been taken will confirm to this House how seriously the US authorities regard this matter."

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." He said the team moved to the other buildings before returning to the first location, when they learned Ms Norgrove's captors had taken her into the gully.