Death of Linda Norgrove

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Aid worker Linda Norgrove, northeastern Afghanistan

On 26 September 2010, Scottish aid worker Linda Norgrove and three Afghan colleagues were kidnapped by members of the Taliban in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. At the time, she was working in the country as regional director for Development Alternatives Incorporated, a contractor for U.S. and other government agencies. After their capture, the group was taken to the nearby Dewegal Valley area. United States and Afghan forces began a search of the area, placing roadblocks to prevent the group from being moved east into Pakistan.

Norgrove's captors demanded the release of Afia Siddiqui in exchange for her return. During negotiations, on 3 October 2010 the Taliban released the three Afghans. Five days later, amid concerns that Norgrove would be killed or moved by her kidnappers, the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group conducted a predawn rescue attempt on the Taliban mountain hideout where she was held captive. US forces killed several kidnappers and three local farmers in the assault. They subsequently located Norgrove, badly wounded, in a nearby gully; she later died from her injuries.

Initial reports said that Norgrove had been killed by an explosion set off by one of her captors. However, a joint official investigation by the United Kingdom and the United States concluded that Norgrove's fatal injuries were inflicted by a grenade thrown by one of her rescuers. A February 2011 coroner's narrative verdict reported that Norgrove died during the failed rescue attempt. In October 2012, one of Norgrove's colleagues said in an interview that the captors told Norgrove they had no intention of killing her.

Early life, education and work[edit]

Isle of Lewis, Scotland, where Norgrove grew up

Norgrove was born in Altnaharra, Scotland, in 1974 to John and Lorna Norgrove. She grew up on a croft on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, attending a primary school in Uig.[1] She later attended the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.[2] Norgrove attended the University of Aberdeen, receiving a first-class honours degree in tropical environmental science; her coursework included postgraduate research at the University of Chiapas in Mexico and a year of study at the University of Oregon (1993–94).[3][4] She attended the University of London, receiving a master's degree with distinction in rural resources and environmental policy in 1997.[5]

In 2002, Norgrove received a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in development policy and management.[2][6][7] From 2002 to 2005 she worked for the World Wide Fund in Peru, supporting (and later supervising) the WWF's Forest Program in the Peruvian Andes.[8] At the time of her death, Norgrove was working towards an MBA from the University of Warwick through distance learning in addition to her aid work.[9][10] She worked in Afghanistan (for the United Nations from 2005 to 2008 and as regional director of an international development company based in Jalalabad[10] beginning in February 2010), Laos (as an environmental specialist for the U.N. in 2008–09), Mexico and Uganda (where Norgrove researched the effects of national park management on the indigenous population near Mount Elgon National Park).[11][12]

Kidnapping[edit]

Pink map of Afghanistan, with Kunar Province in red in the northeast
Map of Afghanistan, with Kunar Province in red

On 26 September 2010, Norgrove and three Afghan colleagues were travelling in the Chawkay (also known as Tsawkay and Sawkay) district of eastern Kunar Province when they were kidnapped by local insurgents.[13][14][15] They were ambushed whilst driving on the main highway from Jalalabad to Asadabad, in the Dewagal valley,[16][17] in two unarmored, unmarked Toyota Corollas. A U.S. military convoy was ambushed two months earlier on the same stretch of road.[18] Norgrove wore a burqa to disguise her foreign appearance.[19]

Dressed in men's clothing by her captors, she was first taken into the mountains[15] and then brought to the Dewegal Valley in Chowkai District (which crosses the Korengal Valley). U.S. Army troops from Bravo Company, 2/327 Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division began a 12-day search supported by Afghan army, police and commando units under the codename "Enterprise". A house-to-house search was conducted and roadblocks posted at the valley entrance to prevent Norgrove's captors from transferring her eastward into Pakistan. The difficult terrain (with few roads) complicated and slowed the process; however, the search efforts succeeded in containing the kidnappers in the vicinity and several local Taliban members were killed.[20]

Negotiations[edit]

It was unclear at first who kidnapped Norgrove and her colleagues. A Taliban commander, the Pakistan-based Mohammed Osman, was reported to demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui in return for Norgrove's freedom. Siddiqui, known as "Lady al-Qaeda", had received an 86-year prison sentence in the U.S. on 26 September.[21][22] "We are lucky that we abducted this British woman soon after the ruthless ruling by an American court on Aafia Siddiqui. We will demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for her", said Osman.[23]

However, other Afghan sources denied any link to Osman.[20] U.S. military sources identified Norgrove's captors as Kunar Taliban, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said they were from a Salafist group affiliated with the local Taliban.[14][24] An Afghan intelligence official later identified her captors as local commanders Mullah Basir and Mullah Keftan.[11] Negotiations for Norgrove's release were conducted through local tribal elders.[20]

The three Afghans captured with Norgrove were released on 3 October.[14][25] British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the primary fear was that she "was going to be passed up the terrorist chain, which would increase further the already high risk that she would be killed".[26] The British foreign office asked the media not to release details about Norgrove's personal life while she was in captivity to avoid attaching "trophy value" to her kidnapping.[21]

Rescue attempt and death[edit]

Intelligence reports indicated that a group of local elders were calling for Norgrove to be executed "like the Russian" (a possible reference to the Russian war in Afghanistan).[27][28] There were concerns that she might be moved into North Waziristan in Pakistan, about 10 miles (16 km) away.[29] The intelligence prompted British Prime Minister Cameron and William Hague to approve a United States special operations effort to rescue Norgrove during her 13th night of captivity. The operation was spearheaded by "SEAL Team Six", Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.[28][30]

The SEALs staged a predawn raid on the Taliban hillside compound hideout, where Norgrove was held in a shack, on 8 October 2010. The stronghold was surrounded by 16-foot (4.9 m) high, 2-foot (0.61 m) thick perimeter walls in a densely wooded area[27][31] in the village of Dineshgal, 7,000 feet (2,100 m) up a steep mountain in the Korengal Valley.[32]

At approximately 3:30 am 24 SEALs and about 20 U.S. Army Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment (wearing night-vision goggles) approached the compound, fast roping from two CH-47 Chinook helicopters. They were fired on from the compound and from a nearby position by Taliban armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests.[27][29][33][34] Two American snipers aboard a helicopter killed two guards using sound-suppressed rifles.[27] An AC-130 Spectre gunship provided the U.S. troops on the ground with close air support, killing two fleeing Taliban.[35][36] The Rangers secured enemy positions on the nearby hills,[27] and all six Taliban gunmen who fought the U.S. forces were killed.[28][32][34]

During the gunfight Norgrove's captors dragged her outside the building where she was being held, but she apparently broke away from them. Video footage of the raid showed an explosion in her vicinity; Norgrove was then found, injured, in a fetal position in a gully.[37][38]

Norgrove was removed from the scene via helicopter and received medical care, but she died.[32] It was initially reported that she had been killed by one of her captors setting off a suicide vest.[28][33][39] According to The Guardian, insurgents often put on suicide vests if they think they are in danger of being attacked.[28] Taliban commanders Mullah Basir and Mullah Keftan (who were holding Norgrove) were among those killed in the raid, according to an Afghan intelligence official.[11] Other women and children in the compound were uninjured, and no members of the rescue team were wounded.[34]

Joint investigation[edit]

Major General, now Lieutenant General, Joseph Votel, led the investigation

British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced Norgrove's death. In a written statement, he said that after receiving information on her location it was "decided that, given the danger she was facing, her best chance of safe release was to act on that information."[11] Prime Minister Cameron defended the rescue attempt: "Decisions on operations to free hostages are always difficult. But where a British life is in such danger, and where we and our allies can act, I believe it is right to try."[40]

On 10 October, an unnamed Afghan intelligence officer said that Norgrove was killed by a grenade thrown by one of her captors.[38][40] The following day, Cameron said that new information indicated Norgrove may have accidentally been killed by a U.S. grenade.[14] The Prime Minister said in an interview, "Linda could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the task force during the assault. However, this is not definite."[41] A U.S. military statement read, "Subsequent review of surveillance footage and discussions with members of the rescue team do not conclusively determine the cause of her death".[14][39]

U.S. President Barack Obama promised "to get to the bottom" of the failed rescue attempt.[42] General David Petraeus, commander of the NATO security force in Afghanistan, ordered an investigation into the incident. U.S. Major General Joseph Votel (Chief of Staff of the U.S. Special Operations Command) and British Brigadier Rob Nitsch (Head of Joint Force Support, UK Forces Afghanistan) were appointed to lead a joint UK and U.S. investigation.[43] It was reported on 12 October that the results were expected within days,[26] and Norgrove's family was kept informed of the investigation's progress.[43][44]

Whilst the military investigation was conducted, Norgrove's body was returned to the United Kingdom on 14 October on a Royal Air Force flight to RAF Lyneham.[45] A humanist funeral ceremony, attended by hundreds of people, was held on 26 October at the Uig Community Centre in the Western Isles. Norgrove was buried at Ardroil cemetery.[46][47]

On 2 December Hague announced the results of the joint investigation, which concluded that Norgrove was accidentally killed by a grenade thrown by a U.S soldier. Hague said to the House of Commons, "A grenade was thrown by a member of the rescue team who feared for his own life and those of his team towards a gully from where some of the insurgents had emerged. When the grenade was thrown no member of the team had seen, or heard, Linda Norgrove."[38] Navy SEALs did not immediately notify senior officers about throwing the grenade; this breached military law,[38] and a number of sailors were disciplined.[38]

A post-mortem examination of Norgrove's body was conducted by British coroner Russell Delaney on 19 October 2010. Detective Chief Inspector Colin Smith of the Metropolitan Police told an inquest, opened 22 October in the Salisbury coroner's court, that the examination identified the cause of death as "penetrating fragment injuries to the head and chest."[31] In February 2011 the coroner recorded a narrative verdict confirming the earlier military investigations' findings that Norgrove was killed by a member of the U.S. rescue team, noting that a gunshot wound to the leg Norgrove received during the rescue did not contribute to her death.[48] In October 2012 Abdul Wadood, Norgrove's colleague and fellow captive, told the BBC that she asked the kidnappers if they were going to kill her:[49] "Linda asked the abductors when they were planning to kill her and then the abductors talked to her in a very soft language and they told her and assured her that she would not be killed, because that was not their purpose to kill her—all they wanted was to release some of their prisoners, in the end she would be released when this deed is done."[50]

Tributes[edit]

James Boomgard, regional director for Development Alternatives (the company for which Norgrove worked when she was kidnapped), released a statement: "We are saddened beyond words by the death of a wonderful woman whose sole purpose in Afghanistan was to do good–to help the Afghan people achieve a measure of prosperity and stability in their everyday lives as they set about rebuilding their country."[51] United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Watkins praised Norgrove: "She was a true advocate for the people of Afghanistan and was dedicated to bringing improvements to their lives", and "her spirit and compassion will be greatly missed".[52] First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said, "Ms. Norgrove was a dedicated aid worker who was doing everything she could to help people in Afghanistan—hopefully that legacy of service in a humanitarian cause can be of some comfort to her loved ones in their time of grief".[53]

Norgrove received the 2011 Robert Burns Humanitarian Award posthumously for her work in Afghanistan.[54] Her family has established the Linda Norgrove Foundation to continue her relief work.[55]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Linda's care for others marked her out at an early age". The Scotsman. 10 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Island community mourns kidnapped aid worker". BBC News. 9 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "She liked knowing the place she lived". KVAL CBS 13. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  4. ^ Richard James (9 October 2010). "UK aid worker Linda Norgrove killed in Afghanistan". London: Daily mail. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Carole Erskine (9 October 2010). "Afghanistan: Linda Norgrove Dedicated To Afghanistan After Being Murdered By Insurgents". Sky News. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  6. ^ Harrison, David (10 October 2010). "Murdered aid worker Linda Norgrove dedicated life to helping world’s poor". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Cowing, Emma (10 October 2010). "Killed hostage's life packed with travel and helping others". Edinburgh: The Scotsman. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  8. ^ "WWF pays tribute to Linda Norgrove WWF". 10 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Christopher Leake (10 October 2010). "Aid worker Linda Norgrove blown up by Taliban suicide vest during US rescue mission". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Beverley Rouse (11 October 2010). "A sad end to a life packed with adventure and helping people". Press & Journal. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c d CNN Wire Staff (9 October 2010). "British hostage in Afghanistan killed during rescue attempt". CNN. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  12. ^ "Profile: Linda Norgrove – From Lewis croft to a career in world's hotspots". Edinburgh: scotsman.com. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  13. ^ "Rescuers may have killed hostage". BBC. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  14. ^ a b c d e "UK aid worker may have been killed by rescuers' grenade". BBC News. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "NATO Probes Death Of Aid Worker In Afghanistan". NPR. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  16. ^ Taylor, Matthew; Walsh, Declan; Borger, Julian; Norton-Taylor, Richard (11 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove: Necessity of rescue operation by US troops put into doubt". The Guardian (London: Guardian News & Media). 
  17. ^ Starkey, Jerome (10 October 2010). "Navy Seals' nighttime raid thwarted by Afghan captors". Edinburgh: The Scotsman. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  18. ^ "Bringing aid to the Afghans: A deadly occupation". CNN. 20 October 2010. 
  19. ^ Sawer, Patrick (9 October 2010). "Kidnapped aid worker killed as Navy Seals mounted rescue". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  20. ^ a b c Starkey, Jerome (10 October 2010). "Navy Seals' nighttime raid thwarted by Afghan captors". Edinburgh: The Scotsman. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  21. ^ a b Chris Watt (10 October 2010). "A cruel and tragic end to a lifetime of devoted service". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  22. ^ Maria Abi (9 October 2010). "British Aid Worker Killed in Afghanistan". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  23. ^ Andy Bloxham (28 September 2010). "Taliban group claims responsibility for British aid worker's kidnap". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  24. ^ John F. Burns (11 October 2010). "U.S. Grenade May Have Killed British Taliban Hostage". The New York Times. 
  25. ^ Ben Farmer (11 October 2010). "Failed attempt to free kidnapped British aid worker". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  26. ^ a b Nick Assinder (12 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove Death: Brits Question What Really Happened". TIME. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  27. ^ a b c d e Sean Rayment (17 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove: how the rescue operation was bungled". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  28. ^ a b c d e Julian Borger (13 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove: US navy Seal faces disciplinary action over grenade death". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  29. ^ a b Chapman, James; Drury, Ian; Martin, Arthur (13 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove's death captured on US Navey Seals' helmet camera". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  30. ^ Ben Farmer (13 October 2010). "Taliban | Linda Norgrove – aid worker killed by rescuer's grenade". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  31. ^ a b "Kidnapped British aid worker killed by fragment wounds". AFP. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  32. ^ a b c Kim Sengupta (12 October 2010). "How the official story of Linda Norgrove's death unravelled". London: The Independent. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  33. ^ a b Rayner, Gordon; Kirkup, James; Farmer, Ben (12 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove: grim reality of aid worker's death emerges from fog of war". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  34. ^ a b c Heidi Vogt and Robert Kennedy. "US Grenade May Have Killed British Aid Worker". TIME. Retrieved 12 October 2010. [dead link]
  35. ^ Robert Hutton (15 October 2010). "Petraeus Gives Details of U.S. Rescue That Led to Death of British Hostage". Bloomberg. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
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  37. ^ "Everything possible 'to get Linda out safely'". BBC. 10 October 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  38. ^ a b c d e "Aid worker Linda Norgrove was killed by US grenad". BBC News (BBC). 2 December 2010. 
  39. ^ a b Maria Abi (12 October 2010). "U.S., U.K. Probe Aid Worker's Death in Afghanistan". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  40. ^ a b Sarah Gordon, Rob Cole (10 October 2010). "Kidnapped British aid worker is killed in Afghanistan during failed rescue attempt". Sky News. 
  41. ^ Robert Hutton (11 October 2010). "Aid Worker Held Hostage In Afghanistan May Have Died From Rescuer Grenade". Bloomberg. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  42. ^ James Kirkup, Thomas Harding and Ben Farmer (12 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove death: Barack Obama offers condolences in call to David Cameron". The Telegraph (London). 
  43. ^ a b Paul Reynolds (11 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove's father speaks to US commander". BBC News. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  44. ^ Press Association (15 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove death: David Petraeus promises transparent inquiry". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  45. ^ Richard Norton-Taylor (14 October 2010). "Body of British aid worker killed in Afghanistan flown back to UK". London: The Guardian. 
  46. ^ Simon Johnson (26 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove lived 'life that matters', funeral told". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  47. ^ "Funeral held for aid worker Linda Norgrove – Scotsman.com News". Edinburgh: News.scotsman.com. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  48. ^ "'Narrative verdict' at Linda Norgrove inquest". BBC. 15 February 2011. 
  49. ^ "Linda Norgrove: Afghan kidnappers 'told her she would live'". BBC News. 8 October 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  50. ^ "Linda Norgrove: Afghan kidnappers 'told her she would live'". BBC News. 8 October 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  51. ^ Peter Beaumont (9 October 2010). "Linda Norgrove profile: aid worker was in love with Afghanistan". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  52. ^ "Afghanistan: UN condemns killing of British aid worker". United Nations. 10 October 2010. 
  53. ^ Owen Bowcott (6 October 2010). "How the rescue of British aid worker Linda Norgrove ended in tragedy". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  54. ^ "2011 ROBERT BURNS HUMANITARIAN AWARD WINNER ANNOUNCED". 22 January 2011. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. 
  55. ^ "Linda Norgrove nominated for humanitarian award". BBC. 28 December 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]