Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday that a British aid worker killed in an American rescue raid in Afghanistan last week may have been killed by a grenade detonated by a United States special forces unit — not by her Taliban captors, as the American command in Afghanistan originally announced.
A grim-faced Mr. Cameron appeared at a news conference at 10 Downing Street to say he had learned of “this deeply distressing development” when the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David H. Petraeus, contacted his office early Monday. “General Petraeus has since told me,” the prime minister said, that an American-led review of the raid to rescue Linda Norgrove, 36, “has revealed evidence to indicate that Linda may not have died at the hands of her captors as originally believed.”
He added: “That evidence and subsequent interviews with the personnel involved” — believed to have included a Navy Seals unit specializing in hostage rescues that that has participated in numerous special forces raids in Afghanistan — “suggest that 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 U.S./U.K. investigation will now be launched.”
As I wrote before, ultimate responsibility for Norgrove’s death rests with the men who kidnapped her. But emerging evidence that American soldiers might have accidentally killed the woman they were trying to rescue just lends more credibility to the argument that armed rescues in Afghanistan are likely to end in tragedy.
Kidnappings are an evil. They foist wrenching choices onto those who care about the victim, even when armed rescue isn’t a possibility.
The realtors who helped me find my current house were kidnapped by the Taliban in Ghazni and tortured for two months. The abuse inflicted on them was obvious even months later. One realtor limped from having his feet smashed, and both were partially deaf from beatings and missing most of their teeth. They were freed when their families paid a staggering, ruinous sum to the kidnappers. The payment of that ransom saved two lives, but undoubtedly encouraged subsequent kidnappings in the same area, many of which have ended with bodies dumped in ditches.