U.S. Forces Disciplined Over Reporting of Rescue That Killed U.K. Hostage

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have been disciplined for failing to report that a grenade had been thrown during the attempt to rescue British hostage Linda Norgrove from her Taliban captors that ended in her death.

“The failure to disclose information that a grenade was thrown breached U.S. military law,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament in London today. “Members of the rescue team have been disciplined for failing to provide a complete and full account of their actions.”

Hague was presenting the results of a joint U.S.-U.K. probe into how the rescue went wrong and why American forces initially reported Norgrove had been killed by her captors. He refused to give more details of the disciplinary action, beyond saying that while the junior soldier who threw the grenade had reported it, this hadn’t been passed on. Initial reports said Norgrove had been killed by her captors, possibly by a suicide vest.

“Linda Norgrove died as a result of penetrating fragmentation injuries to the head and chest,” Hague said. “It is clear that the injuries were caused by the grenade.”

Norgrove, 36, an aid worker for Washington-based DAI, died during a rescue mission on Oct. 8. Special forces had traveled by two helicopters in total darkness to a “near vertical” mountainside, Hague said. Intelligence reports had led them to believe she was being held in the upper of two sets of buildings. During an exchange of fire at the lower set of buildings, less than a minute after landing, a U.S. soldier threw the grenade that killed her.

‘Feared For His Life’

“A grenade was thrown by a member of the rescue team who feared for his own life and for those of his team, towards a gully from which some of the insurgents had emerged,” Hague said. “When the grenade was thrown no member of the team had seen or heard Linda Norgrove.”

Hague praised the efforts and bravery of the rescue team. “This is an operation that came tantalizingly close to success,” he said. “We must not lose sight of the enormous expertise and skill and bravery that was involved in even getting close to that point of having a prospect of being able to rescue a hostage.”

Nearly 1,000 U.S. and Afghan forces were involved in locating Norgrove and attempting to rescue her.

“We judged that Linda Norgrove’s life was in grave danger from the moment she was abducted, and we feared that her captors would pass her higher up the Taliban chain of command or move her to more inaccessible terrain,” Hague said. “We also judged that the only credible prospect of securing her release was through a rescue attempt, which is why I authorized such an attempt to be made.”

Hague said the U.S. is now reviewing its post-operational procedures to ensure the correct sequence of events is revealed more accurately and earlier.

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net; Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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