Afghans say they could have freed aid worker killed in armed 'rescue'

Afghans say they could have freed aid worker killed in armed 'rescue'

By staff writers
11 Oct 2010

Serious questions are being raised over the failed military rescue attempt in Afghanistan that ended in the death of aid worker Linda Norgrove, from Scotland, on Friday 8 October.

Local police chiefs in the mountainous Kunar region wanted negotiations to continue to try to secure the Ms Norgrove's release from her captors, who kidnapped her on 26 September.

The chief of police, Khalilullah Zaiyi, is reported to have been "confident" of securing the humanitarian worker's freedom.

Afghan government sources say Mr Zaiyi was "angered" by NATO's decision to send in the forces, with the agreement of the US and UK governments.

"NATO didn't even ask the permission of the regional Afghan authorities," an official declared.

The leader of the 22-strong Afghan delegation dispatched to talk to the insurgents holding Ms Norgrove also believed that the situation could have been resolved without violence.

The Scotsman newspaper reports that there was widespread shock and grief in Ms Norgrove's home village on the island of Lewis over the weekend, where her father John said the family were "devastated" by her death.

The British government's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, defended the rescue operation, saying and that "all the blame" for Ms Norgrove's death lay with her captors, and that the failed military operation was "her best chance of safe release".

However, it then emerged that local Afghan leaders had wanted to talk further with the kidnappers but were overruled by NATO commanders who believed she was about to be smuggled to Pakistan and handed to al-Qaeda activists.

An Afghan leader declared: "We were 100 per cent sure that if they had stopped the operation we could have negotiated and we could have released her."

A series of kidnaps in the Kunar province earlier in 2010 had ended peacefully through negotiations.

Tributes from across Britain and around the world have been pouring in for Ms Norgrove, following her tragic death.

The Scots aid worker was working for the agency Development Alternatives Inc, based in Jalalabad. She supervised reconstruction programmes in the east of Afghanistan.

Paryers were said on Sunday 10 October in Ms Norgrove's home Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) parish. "It is a very close-knit community," said the Rev Hugh Stewart. "We will remember the family in our prayers."

[Ekk/3]

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