KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military launched a high-level investigation Monday to determine whether a captured British aid worker was killed accidentally by the American rescue team, not by her Afghan captors, as officials originally said.
Forty-eight hours after they blamed Taliban kidnappers for killing Linda Norgrove, American officials said that a review indicated that the 36-year-old worker may have been mortally wounded when U.S. forces threw a grenade into the room where she was held.
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the sobering news in London after U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of the international military coalition in Afghanistan, informed him of what Cameron called the "deeply distressing development."
The revelation could increase opposition to the Afghan war in the United Kingdom, where support for the U.S.-led campaign to shore up the pro-Western Kabul government and prevent Taliban forces from returning to power already is flagging.
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It also raised questions about why military officials in Afghanistan initially blamed the Taliban for killing Norgrove with a suicide belt.
Militants abducted Norgrove and three Afghan colleagues on Sept. 26 as they drove in two unarmored cars through Kunar province, which borders Pakistan. While the Afghan captives were freed last week, the militants held Norgrove at a compound in eastern Afghanistan's mountains.
Addressing the British parliament Monday, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Norgrove was being held by militant Islamic insurgents aligned with the Taliban who had no intention of freeing her.
"Nothing that happened between 26th of September and 8th October caused me or anyone else involved to change our view that a rescue operation was the only realistic hope for Linda's safe and secure release," Hague said.
Over the weekend, in consultation with British officials, the U.S. military ordered the rescue mission after concluding that Norgrove was in danger of being spirited into Pakistan and turned over to even more recalcitrant insurgents.