Colonel Richard Kemp: 'Heartless killing typical of Taliban brutality'

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The Independent Online

One of my responsibilities as chairman of the Cobra Intelligence Group was to brief the Foreign and Defence Secretaries on the intelligence, to help them make the decision when a hostage rescue mission was being considered for British citizens kidnapped in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Authorisation of the US special forces mission to rescue Linda Norgrove will have been one of the toughest calls William Hague has ever had to make. The hostage-takers will have had plans to kill Ms Norgrove should a rescue be attempted. They will have prepared a defence against such an operation, putting the rescuers' lives in severe danger.

A rescue operation would only have been agreed if there was no other way of saving Ms Norgrove's life. Since she was seized on 26 September, British, American, Afghan and allied intelligence agencies will have worked to find out where she was being held, who was holding her and their intentions.

By Friday, intelligence had pinpointed Ms Norgrove's location in the remote, mountainous and densely forested Dewagal valley of eastern Kunar. Intelligence also confirmed that she was being held by a local group of the Kunar Taliban in an inaccessible area of this lawless province. The presence of civilians where she was being held captive added significant complications.

The outcome of Linda Norgrove's kidnapping has been a tragedy. The heartless killing of this defenceless aid-worker is entirely in keeping with the Taliban's normal callous brutality.

I am confident that the British and American governments and intelligence agencies spared no effort in seeking to secure Ms Norgrove's release. And we can only be in awe of the courage of the US special forces, who risked their lives to save hers.

Colonel Kemp is the author of Attack State Red, an account of combat in Afghanistan. Follow Richard Kemp on Twitter: @ColRichardKemp