Briton may have been killed by rescuers' grenade: Cameron

11th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British aid worker who died in a failed US rescue attempt in Afghanistan may have been killed by a grenade detonated by US troops and not by her kidnappers, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.

Cameron said a full investigation would now be launched into the death on Friday of Linda Norgrove, 36, who was abducted with three Afghan colleagues on September 26 in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan.

"Linda could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the task force during the assault. However this is not certain and a full US-UK investigation will now be launched," Cameron told a news conference at Downing Street.

Cameron said the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, had contacted his office early Monday "to inform us that in the review of the rescue operation, new information had come to light about the circumstances surrounding Linda's death.

"General Petraeus has since told me that that review has revealed evidence to indicate that Linda may not have died at the hands of her captors as originally believed."

The British premier added: "Obviously he deeply regrets what has happened."

The announcement came a day after a British government official said that Norgrove was likely killed by a suicide vest held by one of the kidnappers. Afghan officials had said it was a grenade blast.

Norgrove was working for US development group DAI when she was captured while travelling in Kunar province, a hotbed of Taliban activity in eastern Afghanistan.

US forces launched the operation to rescue her late on Friday.

Cameron -- who emerged an hour late for the news conference looking grim-faced -- said the decision to launch the operation "was not an easy one" and was taken by Foreign Secretary William Hague "with my full support".

"I think it was the right decision because of the information and advice that we were given. I am deeply sorry and distressed that it has not worked out in the way that we all wanted it to work out," Cameron said.

"Linda's life was in grave danger from the moment she was taken," he added.

"Those on the ground and in London feared she was going to be passed up the terrorist chain which would increase further the already high risk that she would be killed."

Once hostages are smuggled across the Afghan border into Pakistan, particularly the tribal belt that lies outside direct government control, tracking their whereabouts becomes far more difficult.

Pakistani officials have described the tribal badlands, a suspected hiding place of Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, as an intelligence black hole while Western officials have dubbed it the "most dangerous place in the world."

Cameron hailed US forces for doing "everything in their power in bring Linda home safely".

"We should also remember that ultimately, the responsibility for Linda's death lies with those who took her hostage. The US forces placed their own lives in danger," he said.

"General Petraeus has told me they are deeply dismayed at the outcome. I want to thank them for their courage."

The prime minister added: "There will be a huge number of questions that have to be asked and it's very important that we have a full investigation into what happened."

© 2010 AFP

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