U.S. grenade may have killed British hostage, PM says


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Mar 5, 2006
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London, England (CNN) -- A British aid worker who died during an operation to rescue her from kidnappers in Afghanistan may have been killed by a grenade thrown by American forces trying to free her, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will launch an investigation into the failed attempt to rescue Linda Norgrove, 36, Cameron said.

NATO and British officials had said earlier she was killed by her captors, who detonated an explosive.

But Cameron said on Monday that statements made about Norgrove's death over the weekend were "highly likely to have been incorrect," although they were made "in good faith."

Petraeus contacted him Monday morning, he said, with new information.

But Cameron said he could not make a firm statement about the cause of her death until the investigation was complete. It will be a joint investigation between the United States and United Kingdom, he said.

The probe will start in the next day or two and be led by a senior officer from U.S. Central Command, an International Security Assistance Force official told CNN.

One of the key components in determining what went wrong will be the autopsy, which will be carried out by British officials, the ISAF officer said.

The initial report on the rescue mission by the troops who carried it out did not mention throwing a grenade, but a follow-up report did, which "raised a lot of question about what killed" Norgrove, U.S. Air Force Capt. Gary Kirchner told CNN after Cameron spoke.

The mission commander called Petraeus as soon as he learned a grenade had been thrown, Kirchner said, without naming the commander.

The investigation will be done "with all due haste," Kirchner said. It will review the mission plan, communications, and video from the operation, he said.

A "review of surveillance footage and discussions with members of the rescue team do not conclusively determine the cause of her death," said a statement from the U.S. military Monday.

The British prime minister said he believed "profoundly" that it had been the right decision to try to rescue her, although he looked shaken at times during his statement to the press.

Norgrove, who had been held hostage since late last month, worked for DAI, an agency that provides various services to developing nations.

She spent much of her career managing projects for farmers and rural workers.

Cameron said in a statement Saturday that Norgrove "was doing valuable work for the Afghan people."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a written statement Saturday that his forces received information about where she was held and "decided that, given the danger she was facing, her best chance of safe release was to act on that information.

"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."

Hague is due to make a full statement to the House of Commons later on Monday, Cameron said.

Norgrove was being held by two Taliban commanders, Mullah Basir and Mullah Keftan, who were both killed in the raid, an Afghan intelligence official said.

An Afghan official said last month that the British woman, two Afghan drivers and a security guard had been kidnapped after an exchange of gunfire September 26 in the Chawkay district of eastern Kunar province.

Abdul Marjan Adel, a local provincial official, had said that the four were being held in a "very remote area," and that Afghan and international forces were looking for them.

He said they were healthy and located in the Dewcar valley.

The three Afghans kidnapped with Norgrove had been released days ago, according to another Afghan intelligence official and a local provincial government official.

James Boomgard, DAI president and chief executive officer, called the news of her death "devastating" and said his operation is "saddened beyond words by the death of a wonderful woman whose sole purpose in Afghanistan was to do good."

"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."

He was speaking before Cameron's statement about the confusion over the cause of her death.

U.S. grenade may have killed British hostage, PM says - CNN.com