KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S.-led military rescue operation ended in failure Friday when a Taliban militant set off explosives that killed a British aid worker kidnapped two weeks ago in eastern Afghanistan, Western officials said Saturday.
The raid was staged under cover of darkness amid growing concerns that Linda Norgrove, a 35-year-old contractor on a U.S.-backed Afghan development project, was in danger of being transported across the border to Pakistan, according to Western officials familiar with the incident.
“There was no choice,” said a senior official with the U.S-led military coalition in Afghanistan. “There was good information that this needed to be done because there were concerns that her life was in imminent danger.”
U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S-led forces in Afghanistan, said Afghan and coalition security forces “did everything in their power” to rescue Norgrove. He called her “a courageous person with a passion to improve the lives of Afghan people.”
Militants abducted Norgrove and three Afghan colleagues Sept. 26 as they were traveling in a two-car convoy through Kunar province, which borders western Pakistan.
While the three Afghan captives were freed earlier this week, officials said that Taliban militants kept Norgrove at an inaccessible compound in the forbidding Afghan mountains near the Pakistan border.
Military leaders had been poised to stage the raid for days. On Friday, they decided to give the go-ahead for U.S.-led forces using helicopters to stage the rescue attempt.
During the rescue, Western officials said, one of the captors detonated explosives near Norgrove, killing himself and the aid worker, who was spearheading a development project run by Development Alternatives Inc., an international consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.