Afghanistan — U.S. General Leads Hostage Death Investigation

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2010 — The inves­ti­ga­tion into a kid­napped aid worker’s death in Afghanistan dur­ing an Oct. 8 attempt to res­cue her will be “as expe­di­tious as pos­si­ble,” a Defense Depart­ment spokesper­son said here today.

Army Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand chief of staff, will head the inves­ti­ga­tion to deter­mine how British nation­al Lin­da Nor­grove died dur­ing a U.S. forces assault on the com­pound where she was being held in the Koren­gal Val­ley, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan told reporters.

The Unit­ed States and the Unit­ed King­dom will work in close coop­er­a­tion dur­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion, Lapan said. Nor­grove was kid­napped Sept. 26 by insur­gents in Kunar province in east­ern Afghanistan. Lapan said U.S. and U.K. offi­cials coop­er­at­ed in the plan­ning of Norgrove’s res­cue oper­a­tion, but the 36-year-old woman died of injuries she suf­fered when U.S. troops stormed the remote com­pound where she was held hostage.

Ini­tial reports indi­cat­ed Nor­grove was killed by a captor’s sui­cide bomb. Lapan said the mis­sion com­man­der reviewed sur­veil­lance video and spoke to team mem­bers after the oper­a­tion, and found some incon­sis­ten­cies. He report­ed his con­cerns to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

At that point, Petraeus request­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion. Marine Gen. James N. Mat­tis, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand com­man­der, appoint­ed Votel to lead the inquiry.

Lapan said the inves­ti­ga­tion is fact-find­ing in nature, and Votel has the option to rec­om­mend fur­ther pro­ceed­ings if war­rant­ed by the team’s find­ings.

Lapan said the inves­tiga­tive team would include U.K. rep­re­sen­ta­tives. While the team will focus on deter­min­ing the facts as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, Lapan said, it’s too soon to spec­u­late on when the inves­ti­ga­tion will con­clude.

While the inves­ti­ga­tion will deter­mine the sequence of events dur­ing the res­cue attempt, Lapan said, ulti­mate respon­si­bil­i­ty for Norgrove’s death rests with the kid­nap­pers.

“This res­cue mis­sion would not have been nec­es­sary had she not been kid­napped,” he said.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, British Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron, Petraeus and many oth­er offi­cials from both nations have expressed their con­do­lences to Norgrove’s fam­i­ly, friends and col­leagues in the days since her death.

Oba­ma said Norgrove’s ser­vice in Afghanistan illus­trat­ed her extra­or­di­nary com­mit­ment to advance the lives of oth­ers.

Petraeus said: “Lin­da was a coura­geous per­son with a pas­sion to improve the lives of Afghan peo­ple, and sad­ly she lost her life in their ser­vice. Our thoughts and prayers are with her fam­i­ly dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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