KABUL, Afghanistan – At first, NATO blamed a Taliban bomb for the death of a captive British aid worker during an American rescue attempt in eastern Afghanistan.
Two days later, the coalition changed its account, saying Monday that U.S. forces may have detonated a grenade that killed Linda Norgrove during the operation to free her.
British Prime Minister David Cameron defended Friday’s rescue mission, saying his government authorized it only after learning that Norgrove’s life was in grave danger. The U.S. military said it would investigate the incident with British cooperation.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen emphasized that “whatever happened, I would like to stress that those who are responsible of course are the captors.”
Norgrove, 36, from Scotland’s Isle of Lewis, worked on a U.S.-funded aid project for Development Alternatives Inc., a Bethesda, Maryland-based organization. She was abducted in an ambush on Sept. 26 while driving toward Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province.
Three Afghan colleagues were also captured in the ambush, but all were later released.
Norgrove died Friday night – nearly two weeks after being captured – when U.S. special forces stormed the Taliban compound where she was being held in Kunar province.
In its initial statement Saturday, NATO said Norgrove was killed when captors detonated a bomb during the attack. But then the rescue mission leader saw surveillance footage of the incident, had discussions with other team members and decided “it was not conclusive what the cause of her death was,” said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman at NATO headquarters in Kabul.
When the rescue team assaulted the Taliban hideout, they came under fire from within the compound as well as from an overwatch position nearby, Dorrian said Monday.