10 Oct 2010

Hague gave nod for failed Afghan rescue bid

Channel 4 News has learned Foreign Secretary William Hague personally gave the go-ahead for a rescue mission in Afghanistan which led to the death of aid worker Linda Norgrove.

It has emerged it is likely British aid worker Linda Norgrove died after her kidnappers in Afghanistan detonated a bomb vest as American troops attempted to rescue her.

Channel 4 News
has learned the mission to save her was personally authorised by Foreign Secretary William Hague while Prime Minister David Cameron was kept informed of the operation.

The government has defended the decision to launch the military assault, saying it was “right to try” to secure the release of Ms Norgrove, a 36-year-old aid worker from Scotland. Her father John Norgrove has told The Sunday Times his family is “devastated” by the news.

General David Petraeus, the top Nato and US commander in Afghanistan, added that troops did “everything in their power” to save a woman colleagues described as an “inspiration”.

Read more: Kidnapped UK aid worker killed in Afghanistan

'They were within seconds of rescuing Linda,' writes Channel 4 News reporter Carl Dinnen
I understand that William Hague, the foreign secretary, personally gave the go ahead for the rescue attempt, telling ISAF commanders they should launch the mission when they thought it appropriate. The prime minister was kept informed throughout.

Isaf say the mission was carried out on the basis of precise intelligence which took them to a remote compound, high in the mountains of Kunar province. They were within seconds of rescuing Linda Norgrove, but the margins are very fine in this kind of operation and this one failed.

It's believed Linda was killed in an explosion, most probably caused by a suicide vest being held by one of her captors. Six hostage takers were killed. There were no coalition casualties.

It is thought Ms Norgrove was either wearing a bomb vest or it had been held close to her before being detonated by her captors.

Authorities in the US and the UK stressed that insurgent captors alone were responsible for the death.

There is nothing at all to suggest that US fire was the cause. Foreign Office

“There is nothing at all to suggest that US fire was the cause,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.

Mr Hague yesterday broke the news of the failed rescue bid.

He said: “Responsibility for this tragic outcome rests squarely with the hostage takers.

“From the moment they took her, her life was under grave threat. Given who held her, and the danger she was in, we judged that Linda’s best chance lay in attempting to rescue her.”

In a statement, Mr Cameron added: “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.”