A BRITISH aid worker who died in an attempt by US forces to rescue her from Taliban kidnappers in Afghanistan may have been killed by a grenade detonated by the US troops, Prime Minister David Cameron says.
Linda Norgrove, 36, was abducted on September 26 in eastern Afghanistan and killed in the failed US-led operation on Friday.
British officials had earlier said she died when one of her captors blew up a suicide vest.
Mr Cameron today said an immediate investigation had been launched into Ms Norgrove’s death but he defended the attempt to rescue her, saying that she had been in “grave danger” from the moment she was captured.
He said the top US officer in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, informed him today that a review of the raid “revealed evidence to indicate that Linda may not have died at the hands of her captors as originally believed.”
“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,” Mr Cameron told a news conference at Downing Street.
Ms Norgrove was working for US development group DAI when she and three Afghan colleagues were kidnapped while travelling in Kunar province, a hotbed of Taliban activity in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border.
Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament he gave the green light for the operation because the kidnappers were linked to the Taliban, and it was feared they could hand Ms Norgrove to al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan.
“At no stage was any serious attempt made by those holding her to negotiate,” Mr Hague said, adding that her captors aimed to “pass her further up the Taliban command chain to make her more inaccessible.”
Once hostages are taken to Pakistan, particularly the tribal region where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding, tracking their whereabouts becomes far more difficult. Western troops are also barred from operating there.
US President Barack Obama spoke to Mr Cameron by telephone late today and both agreed the decision to launch the operation had been right, Downing Street said.
The White House issued its own statement that noted Mr Obama had offered his “deepest condolences” and that he and Mr Cameron “agreed that the rescue operation was necessary given the grave danger to Linda’s life, and that US forces had shown great courage.”
Mr Cameron hailed US forces for putting their lives at risk to try to rescue Ms Norgrove and said that General Petraeus “deeply regrets” what had happened.
The British Prime Minister has pledged to get all of his country’s troops out of Afghanistan by 2015. A total of 339 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.