Briton killed by Afghan captors in rescue bid: minister

9th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British aid worker held hostage in Afghanistan for the past fortnight was killed by her captors during a rescue attempt, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Saturday.

"It is with deep sadness that I must confirm that Linda Norgrove, the British aid worker who had been held hostage in eastern Afghanistan since 26 September, was killed at the hands of her captors in the course of a rescue attempt last night (Friday)," Hague said in a statement.

The 36-year-old was working for US aid group DAI when she was seized alongside three local staff when their vehicle convoy was attacked in Kunar, an eastern province bordering Pakistan that is a hotbed of Taliban activity.

"Responsibility for this tragic outcome rests squarely with the hostage takers," Hague said.

"From the moment they took her, her life was under grave threat. Given who held her, and the danger she was in, we judged that Linda's best chance lay in attempting to rescue her."

The foreign secretary did not say who carried out the attempted rescue, but thanked Britain's NATO allies and the Afghan authorities and security forces "for doing all they could to secure the safe release of Linda".

He added: "Hostage-taking is never justified and the UK does not make concessions to hostage-takers.

"But whenever British nationals are kidnapped, we and our allies will do everything in our power to free them.

"It is a tragedy that Linda was taken whilst doing the job she loved in a country she loved. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this terrible time."

Norgrove was an experienced aid worker, having worked in Afghanistan for several years with the United Nations before joining DAI as regional director for a US-funded aid project in the eastern town of Jalalabad in February.

Norgrove was born in Scotland, the elder of two daughters. Her father was a design and construction water engineer and her mother was a crofter.

She travelled widely, spending part of her undergraduate degree in the United States, conducting post-graduate research in southern Mexico and doing much of the work for her PhD in Uganda.

Her first development job was with the World Wildlife Fund in Lima, Peru -- she spoke fluent Spanish -- before joining the UN in Kabul for three years, where she learned to speak Dari to a good level.

After a two-year stint in Laos she returned to Afghanistan in February to work for DAI, and it was during a drive from her base at Jalalabad to Kunar province that she was seized by insurgents.

Although suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban, a spokesman told AFP at the time that they were not responsible. However, it is not uncommon for them to deny an abduction in the early stages.

Criminal groups and insurgents have kidnapped several dozen foreigners since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime in Kabul.

DAI has been targeted in the past by the Taliban, most recently in July when four people were killed in an attack on its premises in northern Kunduz province. The aid organisation did not immediately comment on Norgrove's death.

In August a 36-year-old British doctor, Karen Woo, was shot dead along with seven other foreign medical aid workers in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. Two Afghans were also killed in the attack.

Last year, British commandos rescued a British-Irish journalist Stephen Farrell in a dramatic airborne operation in Kunduz, but his Afghan colleague Sultan Munadi was killed in the ensuing firefight.

© 2010 AFP

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