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'Deeply distressing'

Nick Robinson | 12:22 UK time, Monday, 11 October 2010

He described it as a "deeply distressing development" and a judgement he would "go over in my mind 100 times".

The prime minister looked and sounded profoundly affected by the news that he had to unveil at his Downing Street news conference - that British aid worker Linda Norgrove may have died as a result of a hand grenade detonated by her would-be American rescuers.

Update 1314: The prime minister's news conference was delayed by almost an hour this morning as he was determined to speak to the Norgrove family before answering questions in public about the death of their daughter Linda. The family lives on the isle of Lewis and has no phone. The mobile signal on the island is unreliable. A liaison officer was sent to the island this morning to help arrange the call.


  • Comment number 1.

    Did his vote for the war in Iraq affected him as deeply? Or does he go along with uncle Joe that a single death is a tragedy but a million deaths are a statistic?

  • Comment number 2.

    This is more of a tweet than a blog. How can people comment?

  • Comment number 3.

    These are the kind of things that happen on these jaunts, DC. Better get used to it old son.

  • Comment number 4.

    Totally agree

  • Comment number 5.

    I am sure it is not as deeply distressing for him as it is for Ms. Norgroves devastated parents and family but surely he knew that when you sanction such 'gung ho' attempts by US forces; that 'friendly fire' or collateral damage' (both dreadful sanitised euphemisms)is a very real possibility - in fact more pf a probability. How many of our forces have been killed maimed and wounded by bullets missiles and bnombs from our 'allies' in our two gulf wars for example. In fact a close cousin of mine was in Iraq in 1990 whern the two friends sat either side of him in a warrior APC were blown to smithereens by a us 'friendly fire' missile and 20 years later he still has the mental scars. I want to know why advice for more negotiation locally was ignored before we can say there is no 'blood' on Cameron's hands. Who was it said recently this is no time for a novice ?

  • Comment number 6.

    More like a "deeply DISTURBING development" in the way both governments have so far handled this tragic event.

  • Comment number 7.

    We must have the truth. We need guarantees that the investigation is both independent and objective - unlike most cases involving the military.

  • Comment number 8.

    Yes ... distressing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Is anyone at the BBC able to shed any proper light on this story?? First reports suggested the 'rescuers' went in despite the Afgjhani negotiators asking for more time and that the poor woman was killed by a 'suicide vest', and now this?

    First and foremost the Norgroves deserve the truth, but so do the British people, because we know that US forces have been more than 'economical' with the truth in the past (see 'Saving Jessica Lynch', for example.)

  • Comment number 10.

    We're told that Linda 'may have' been killed by an American grenade, but it is still unconfirmed and there will need to be an investigation. There were no such qualifications earlier when we were told that she had been murdered by her kidnappers.

    The burden of proof is obviously greater for our friends than it is for our enemies.

  • Comment number 11.


    Considering some of the other trouble spots she'd worked in, I'm sure they were more than aware of the dangers that their daughter's chosen profession presented her with.

    With regard to Gulf War I and II, completely different situations. Those incidents, as inexcusable as they were (and your man who uttered the "no time for a novice" phrase hardly covered himself in glory where the armed forces were concerned, did he?) were in active combat operations. This was a hostage rescue scenario, where she had been taken from a 3 car convoy.

    I would venture that you know as little about the rescue attempt as I do at the moment, in fact probably less. As you say in your opening paragraph, it happens sometimes. And referring to the US SF as "gung-ho" indicates a significant degree of ignorance of the subject and a not insignificant amount of anti-American prejudice.

    Not that I'm surprised to see it, mind you.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Our men and women are dying just about every day in Afghanistan and none of us expect every mission in such a cruel country to succeed.

    However when the decision has to be made and it does go wrong then I would expect those involved to feel upset and mull over if it could have been done better.

    Some may view these wars as some kind of movie where we should always win but this is far from the case in reality where others are putting their own lives on the line to rescue others.

  • Comment number 14.

    This was a rescue mission which unfortunately went wrong. Had it succeeded the PM would have been given heaps of praise. So let us understand the dilemma before we jump to criticise the PM. He was certainly right to talk to the grieving parents first before meeting the press.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sympathy to the family AND to those who had to make the decision to attempt a rescue.

    These things rarely end well through negotiation and clearly intelligence showed there may have been an attempt to pass her onwards.

    Perhaps now (having clamoured in opposition to have intelligence released and criticising those who had to make decisions based upon it) DC will understand that such decisions can be judged only on the information available at the time.

    I for one will not criticise him for his decision and applaud keeping the press waiting to first speak to the family.

  • Comment number 16.

    I suggest this thread is closed sooner rather than later. It can only encourage at best idle speculation and at worst political point scoring of the most appalling kind...

  • Comment number 17.

    "The burden of proof is obviously greater for our friends than it is for our enemies."

    Isnt it just. Ask the families of the six Military Policemen who lost their lives in Majar-Al-Khabir, who have just seen the only two men charged with their murders acquitted.

    Compare that to 200 million pounds on the Saville report and yes, your statement rings very true.

  • Comment number 18.

    "referring to the US SF as "gung-ho" indicates a significant degree of ignorance of the subject and a not insignificant amount of anti-American prejudice."

    Not sure about the accuracy of your conclusion Fubar but I would have to disagree on your first part. Anyone using frag grenades in a hostage rescue situation strikes me as either gung-ho or just a panicky amateur. Neither type you want for this type of mission.

  • Comment number 19.

    What a dreadful piece of news. but how refreshing that we have a prime minsiter who takes his time to contact the family and makes the announcement in the correct spirit.

    Contrasts between David Cameron and the 'blame' culture of newlabour couldn't be starker. How many times did we hear 'started in America' for instance? Thank goodness they are now Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and we have someone of sufficient standing representing the country.

  • Comment number 20.

    rockRobin7 @ 19.

    Disgraceful comment given the circumstances...

    Grow up.

  • Comment number 21.

    Deeply distressing for the family, condolences to them.

    DC was not right to take a decision that was not his to take - since only one life was at risk then the family had the right to be involved in taking that decision with informed consent.
    If he can get someone to Lewis to discuss information before a press conference then he certainly could do it to discuss mounting a risky rescue mission before hand.

    This is one of those occasions where the 24 hours news media does more harm than good, perhaps the journalists can think on whether it really was necessary to discuss the manner of Ms Norgroves death rather than just the fact of her death during the mission. No one needed to know other than the family who may well only have heard the true version rather than the rather graphic one broadcast.

  • Comment number 22.

    Perhaps is if had more speacial forces and Helicopters then this might have been able to be handled by the superb UK forces, BUT Brown put pay to that with his defence shinnanigans.

    This is why the SDR has to be clearly thought out as we will abdicate all action to the USA which is not a good idea.

    Were did all the moeny go in the hight of Browns Boom cause it was not on the military that is for sure given they were fight 2 wars. That man browns approach ot the miltiary ia shamful.

    He take 10 years to get the carrier going onm his watch but only at the end , then when it might be cut he stands at the gates of the yard because its near his constituency , never mind poles are doing the welding not the locals and says jobs jobs etc.

    what hypocracy

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.


    Neil, I normally agree with you on about 85-90% of the stuff that you post, but in this case, I'm afraid I cannot. These types of operations have their own dynamic and to be forced to consult with Next Of Kin prior to any kind of rescue attempt, particularly where hostages are concerned, is an absolute no-go. You just cant do it.

    Bear in mind, she would not have been captured had she not been there. Ultimately its very simple. She took the decision that this was the line of work she wanted to do, and very admirable it is indeed that she did so and others who worked alongside her do as well.

    But she should always have been aware of the hazards that working in these kinds of areas presents. And, I'm sure she was aware of the dangers as well and factored that into her decision. This is one of the things that can happen.

    Conversely, theres idiots like Norman Kember from Pinner, nearly five years ago who figured he would go on a mission to Iraq through his church to try and show solidarity with the Iraqis and figure that you're somehow going to be bullet proof and ended up being rescued by the SAS... there is no shortage of naive fools out there who really dont appreciate just how dangerous these places are.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    '16. At 2:21pm on 11 Oct 2010, craigmarlpool wrote:
    I suggest this thread is closed sooner rather than later. It can only encourage at best idle speculation and at worst political point scoring of the most appalling kind...

    'BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall added the latest developments would raise questions over UK and US relations and the possibility there was an attempt to cover up the circumstances of Ms Norgrove's death.'

    I also understand the pack is looking for targets on who is most 'embarrassed' already, by the tragic outcome of a failed hostage rescue. Ms. Kendall and her family now, apparently, old, or less 'interesting' news.

    As the facts still unfold, in the 24/7 views as news culture we now endure, I fear your sensible suggestion is a wee bit too late.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    The prime minister sounded profoundly affected by the news that British aid worker Linda Norgrove may have died as a result of a hand grenade detonated by her would-be American rescuers.
    Linda Norgrove had been abducted on Sept. 26 along with three Afghan co-workers when they visited a project in a remote part of Kunar Province - a lawless region bordering Pakistan.
    My questions mean absolutely no disrespect to the Linda's family & friends. I have to wonder: What were they aid workers doing in Kunar Province where drones proliferate and lawlessness prevails?
    Cameron said General David Petraeus had contacted his office to say a review of events had revealed evidence indicating that Norgrove may not have died at the hands of her captors.
    Cameron: "That evidence, and subsequent interviews with the personnel involved, suggests 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 US-UK investigation will now be launched."
    Who was in the rescuing party?
    Cameron said he took full responsibility for authorizing the operation to rescue the aid worker. He said intelligence at the time suggested Norgrove was about to be passed "up the terrorist chain of command," placing her in an even more danger; hence, it had been urgent to act. Where did this "passing-up" information come from? Who would Linda Norgrove be passed to?
    The US military in Kabul confirmed Petraeus had ordered an investigation into Norgrove's death.
    The rescue attempt wasn't the first such operation. A raid that freed New York Times Reporter Stephen Farrell, a Briton, from his Afghan captors last year provoked much anger after his Afghan colleague and a British soldier were killed.
    General Petraeus: "Ultimately the responsibility for Linda's death lies with those who took her hostage."
    NATO was also investigating the deaths of two civilians killed in southern Afghanistan on Sunday. Initial reports indicated they died in a NATO airstrike called in after a patrol was attacked by insurgents. NATO: "Two civilians may have been accidentally killed in the incident,", adding a child was also wounded. One insurgent died. An Afghan civilian was also killed by a roadside bomb planted by insurgents in Khost province Monday.
    This ugly nine-year war has inflicted a mounting toll on Afghan civilians, as well as dedicated workers like Linda Norgrove. A UN report said more than 1,200 Afghans died and nearly 2,000 were wounded between January - June this year. This ugly war enters its 10th year.
    The six kidnappers also died in the rescue attempt.
    So, who is going to tell us what really happened to Linda Norgrove - no UK troops on this American mission, no witnesses left...I guess the Americans will tell us what happened.

  • Comment number 29.

    rockRobin @ 23're wrong on this one.

    Hague authorised a rescue mission. It went horribly wrong. End of.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    Why the heck were US forces rescuing a British Citizen? I know she was working for a US group but the UK commanders should have insisted that UK special forces took care of it. After all the US "delta force" were crying after 1/2 a day of trying the SAS training!

  • Comment number 32.

    Cameron with every other Prime Minister of this country needs to learn - you cannot trust our well intentioned American friends to do anything much.

    They are particularly poor at anything that requires subtle and careful behaviour. Perhaps he will not think twice about being "gung ho" with someone else's life.

  • Comment number 33.


    Indeed, but we dont know as yet what type of grenade (if indeed it was a frag) if any or who threw it and why, do we?

    All we know for certain is that it was a US led, Brit approved rescue mission and it was not successful. Nothing else concrete has emerged yet.

    The original poster was just indulging in a lazy anti American lash-out for the sake of it.

    There are scores of bad decisions on the battlefield or in situations like this going back decades. That doesnt mean that every person involved when something goes wrong is gung-ho.

  • Comment number 34.

    I agree with 18# Freeman

    We can't comment on the decision to mount a rescue because we're not privy to the facts (as they were known) and any such decision inevitably involves an element of risk.

    The only question here worth a moments consideration is why someone was throwing grenades around in a rescue scene?

  • Comment number 35.

    Obviously we weren't there so don't know what happened. Nor can we know what might have happened without a rescue mission. Lots of hostages have been murdered, some of them women.

    Terrible all round, no winners here.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    24. At 3:19pm on 11 Oct 2010, Fubar_Saunders wrote:

    Fair points - but there is no reason not to have asked what if to the family in this case as she has been held for some time, perhaps I do DC a diservice and they were asked.
    Or perhaps the family would not have wanted any troops risking their lives for a risk that already well understood as I am sure you are right on that score, she was no amateur and surely knew the risks well enough.

  • Comment number 38.

    Condolences and deepest sympathy to the family who have lost someone so dear. All those commenting here can't have any idea what they are going through, and in the public eye too. At least we can all agree on that!

  • Comment number 39.


    Last week the meedja were frothing-at-the-mouth that she was killed by the bad, bad, bad Taliban, now this week it's the heroic Yanks wot dunnit...but it was an accident, of course!

    It's all just propaganda to keep the story in the public's minds i.e. those bad, bad, bad (statist, anti-usury, anti-democray) radical muslims!

    Now who controls the meedja?

  • Comment number 40.


    Well, a nice reminder of what was wrong with newlabour in your attempt to lay the blame and shut down the story. I'm afraid it won;t be so easy for you for the next five years.

  • Comment number 41.

    I don't think this sort of decision is political and it's very difficult to take - people may die either way and you can only do your best at the time with the information available. For the same reasons, I have no grievance against Tony Blair for going into Iraq. No-one is being called a war criminal for not going into Rwanda and leaving thousands of people to be slaughtered.
    Let's just all grow up and realise that this isn't a situation that any of us can prejudge. The one good thing is that DC seems to have had some integrity in talking to the family and being open about events.


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