Suicide vest blamed for Briton's death in Afghan rescue bid

10th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British woman aid worker in Afghanistan who died during a botched US rescue raid was likely killed by an exploding suicide vest held by one of her captors, a government source in London said Sunday.

Linda Norgrove, 36, was working for US development group DAI when she and three Afghan staff were captured on September 26 while travelling in Kunar, a hotbed of Taliban activity in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan.

An international operation was launched to rescue her, carried out late Friday by US forces, but she died during the attempt.

"All the information we have is that she was killed by an explosion, most likely a suicide vest held by a hostage taker," a British government source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Nothing at all suggests US fire was the cause of the death."

On Saturday an Afghan intelligence official had suggested that Norgrove was killed by a grenade thrown into the room where she was being held as the US forces approached. The troops then killed all her captors, the official said.

A Western official speaking on condition of anonymity said the rescue attempt was ordered because Norgrove was under imminent threat -- "either being killed or being taken to Pakistan".

"I don't know if it was a bomb, a grenade, belt or anything. But the captors killed her. US special forces who were involved didn't kill her. She was inside the room. They really did their best," the official said.

Brigadier General Josef Blotz, spokesman for the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, declined to go into details.

"Her life was in great danger," was all he told reporters.

Britain defended the rescue attempt as her "best chance" of survival.

"Where a British life is in such danger, and where we and our allies can act, I believe it is right to try. I pay tribute to the courage and skill of all those involved in this effort," said Prime Minister David Cameron.

Norgrove's father, John, told the Sunday Times he was "devastated" by the death of his eldest daughter.

Speaking from the family's home in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, he said: "We've only known for a few hours -- we are devastated."

The United Nations, for whom Norgrove worked previously for three years in Afghanistan, condemned her killing and the deteriorating security.

"The increasing violence which targets humanitarian and development workers, as well as civilians in Afghanistan is unacceptable," said humanitarian and UN residential coordinator Robert Watkins.

Norgrove's aid worker colleagues also paid tribute to her work.

"Linda loved Afghanistan and cared deeply for its people, and she was deeply committed to her development mission. She was an inspiration to many of us here at DAI and she will be deeply missed," said DAI president James Boomgard.

© 2010 AFP

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