Yesterday at Newshoggers, Steve Hynd wrote: “Marc Ambinder and others are now confirming the Guardian story today that a U.S. SEAL killed kidnapped aid worker Linda Norgrove when he threw a fragmentation grenade instead of a smoke one, fatally wounding her.”
A recently mustered-out special forces member of our acquaintance provided testimony to the extent — heavy fire or no — of the ineptitude involved.
A smoke grenade and a fragmentation grenade are COMPLETELY different in size, shape, and feel. Hell, they are probably designed like that to help avoid accidents like this. I don’t see how a private in a regular infantry unit could have made this mistake much less a professional soldier.
The Guardian story reveals an even more tragic element to Ms. Norgrove’s death.
A delegation of Afghan elders tasked with negotiating the freedom of British hostage Linda Norgrove was close to the mountain hut where she was being held when US special forces launched the rescue mission that resulted in her death, Afghan officials said yesterday.
“We had already arrived in the area but then the fighting started and it was hopeless, so we turned back,” said Haji Ghulam Ehsan Adil, head of the Kunar provincial council. . . . There had been “a complete lack of co-ordination” between the Afghan group’s efforts and those of Nato, he added. . . .
Meanwhile, a senior western official in Kabul said it was difficult to see why the US and UK governments did not give negotiation a greater chance. “We’ve had over seventy abductions of NGO people this year, with just three or four killed. That’s a 5% chance of being killed,” he said.
Paul Refsdal, a Norwegian journalist who was kidnapped for six days in the same part of Kunar last November, criticised the rescue bid: “When I was in captivity I called my embassy and I was very clear that I didn’t want any rescue attempt,” he said. “I understand that every politician wants to take credit for the raid on Entebbe,” he added, referring to the successful 1976 Israeli commando raid on a hijacked airliner in Uganda.
It’s bad enough when aid workers are singled out for assassination or kidnapping. But when one is killed due to a combination of human error and politicians pursuing their onw agenda, those supposedly on her side — Britain, the United States, and NATO — become as complicit in her death as her kidnappers. Worse, when a rescue that on the surface seems immeasurably more challenging — that of the Chilean miners — comes off without a hitch, it only rubs salt in the wound of Ms. Norgrove’s family and aid workers everywhere.
First posted at the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.