29 Oct 2010

Linda Norgrove parents do not blame US forces

The parents of aid worker Linda Norgrove, killed in Afghanistan in a failed rescue attempt after she had been kidnapped, tell Channel 4 News they do not blame the US Special Forces for her death.

The 36-year-old British aid worker was kidnapped during an ambush in the Dewagal valley in Kunar province on 26 September.

Three local staff taken with her were released unharmed but Ms Norgrove was killed during the rescue mission on 8 October.

It was initially thought she had been killed by her captors, but it later emerged that a grenade thrown by one of the US Special Forces may have been to blame. A US military investigation is underway and an inquest that was held last Friday heard she died of penetrating fragment injuries to her head and chest.

Her father, John Norgrove, said there is no point blaming the US military for the death because nobody knows what would have happened if a rescue attempt had not been mounted.

He said: “First of all we don’t know what the outcome would have been if no rescue attempt had been made. We don’t think anybody is ever going to have a really clear picture, taking into account both sides, whether it was better to mount a rescue attempt or to carry on negotiating for a ransom with extremely dangerous and militant criminals.”

He added that the US troops deserve credit for trying to rescue Linda Norgrove.

He said: “It would appear to us that the rescue attempt was so close to being a total success, and at the end there was what appears to have been a human error. But we do think it is very creditable of the Americans to own up that there’s been a mistake when they could so easily have covered the whole thing up.

“We do think they deserve credit for that and we have obviously got to wait for the outcome of the report which the American and British military are now making.”

Mother Lorna Norgrove agreed, adamantly saying they are not into entering the “blame game”.

She said: “We certainly don’t want to enter the blame game if you like. Linda is dead and there’s nothing we can do to change that. We’re just immensely proud of what she was doing in Afghanistan and we want to continue her work in some way. Yes we very much feel we don’t want to get into the blame game.

“Linda is dead and there’s nothing going to bring her back to us.”

Norgrove funeral

Yesterday the couple said goodbye to Linda Norgrove, with more than 200 of her friends and relatives at her humanist funeral on Lewis in the Western Isles.

Linda Norgrove’s parents said when Linda first told them she was travelling to Afghanistan they were concerned.

Father John said: “When she first went to Afghanistan about four years ago, when she worked for the United Nations we were both apprehensive about her going there and tried to dissuade her. But she’d been a very adventurous girl and she was determined to go and at the time I said to her that our worst nightmare was that she might be kidnapped, but at the end we had to accept that she’d been adventurous, she’d done risky things before, and we knew that she was very good at judging risk.”

Linda Norgrove funeral (Getty)

Mother Lorna agreed but said they could not and would not stand in her way.

She said: “She took a long time to decide, to make up her mind to go back for a second time to Afghanistan and she knew I wasn’t keen on her going back. But there was no way as a parent that I would stop her doing that. I knew that she’d grown to love Afghanistan and loved the people and I knew that that’s where her heart was so, she wanted to do humanitarian work there and I think that was what was so important to her. And what she felt she had to do.”

A day of bad news

The former UN employee had been working for the firm Development Alternatives Inc (DAI).

She was based in Jalalabad, supervising reconstruction programmes funded by the US government in the eastern region of Afghanistan.

The Norgrove family knew it was a dangerous job, but nothing could prepare them for the day the bad news came.

John said: “On that particular day it was a beautiful Sunday and we’d gone for a long walk, climbing one of the mountains close by and we came back to be met by the police who told us that Linda had been kidnapped. From then on it was an absolute emotional rollercoaster.

“It was very difficult to explain to anybody who has not been through it, but it felt that sometimes when we were busy and talking to people the pain almost seemed to go away and then it would come in with floods of emotion. I got through that period to a certain extent by imagining the elation of meeting up with Linda when she returned home in Stornaway Airport.

“I just imagined how that would be. So it came as an absolute nightmare, plus two weeks later to have a visit from the police at three o’clock in the morning one day to say that she’d been killed in a rescue attempt.”

Mother, Lorna said: “Not knowing what was happening and told very little about what was happening there in Afghanistan to try and secure her release – that was the most difficult part I think at the time.

“It’s changed our lives completely and we feel we need to move forward and do something to help continue her humanitarian work and to this end we are setting up a charity.”

John explained what the Linda Norgrove Foundation will do for people in Afghanistan.

He added: “We both are intensely proud of the work that Linda was doing in Afghanistan and the best memorial that we can think of to remember her is to continue that work. So we’re setting up a charitable foundation called the Linda Norgrove Foundation. The aims of which will be to undertake humanitarian work initially in Afghanistan aimed at helping women, children and families.”