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Central & South Asia
Probe into UK aid worker's death
Grenade detonated by US forces may have killed Linda Norgrove during rescue attempt in Afghanistan, UK PM says.
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2010 15:59 GMT
Cameron's statement on Monday cast doubt on the initial explanation for British aid worker Norgrove's death [Reuters]

A British aid worker killed during a failed US operation to free her in Afghanistan may have died because of a grenade detonated by her rescuers, not by her kidnappers, David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, has said.

Linda Norgrove, 36, was abducted on September 26 with three Afghan staff in the eastern province of Kunar, near the Pakistan border. The Afghans were later released.

As questions were being raised about whether the operation was even necessary, Cameron promised on Monday a full investigation into the events.

"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," he said.

Cameron said David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, had told him that "a review [of the operation] has revealed that Linda may not have died at the hands of her captors as originally believed".

Family questions

Cameron's statement follows questions raised by Norgrove's family surrounding the circumstances of her death. Just days ago, British officials denied that the US forces were responsible for Norgrove's death.

But Petraeus announced on Monday that an investigation was under way.

Norgrove was abducted on September 26 with three Afghan colleagues in Kunar [AFP]

"Foreign office officials were very keen to try to quash rumours coming out of Kabul as early as Saturday that this was the result of so-called friendly fire. They were adamantly denying that that was the case on Saturday," Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reported from London.

The initial explanation - that she was killed by a "suicide vest" detonated by one of her captors during the rescue attempt - was thrown into doubt by video footage.

Based on Monday's announcement, that information was probably wrong.

"It was the review of the footage from drones above the scene" that led military commanders to query the account given by the navy seals involved in the operation, our correspondent said.

While the exact cause of death is still to be determined, the footage suggests it was most likely caused by a stray grenade.

Afghan account

US special forces launched their unsuccessful mission to save Norgrove on Friday. Six kidnappers are also reported to have been killed during the operation.

Afghan officials said that the rescue operation went ahead despite negotiations with the kidnappers being on the verge of success.

"We were 100 per cent sure if they had stopped the operation we could have negotiated and we could have released her," Kamel, an Afghan official, told The Daily Telegraph, a British daily newspaper.

The decision to go ahead with the operation was taken by William Hague, the British foreign minister.

Cameron said in his statement on Monday that it had seemed like the right choice at the time, based on intelligence that her life was in imminent danger.

"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," he said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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