A female British aid worker kidnapped nearly two weeks ago was killed when one of her captors detonated a bomb as NATO forces were trying to rescue her in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
Linda Norgrove died Friday in Kunar province where she was abducted in an ambush on Sept. 26 along with three of her Afghan colleagues, who were later released.
"Working with our allies we received information about where Linda was being held and we decided that, given the danger she was facing, her best chance of safe release was to act on that information," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.
A NATO official said coalition forces went to a compound in the Nurgal district of Kunar province late Friday night where they believed Norgrove was being held. Five insurgents were killed in a gunbattle with NATO forces and a sixth died when he detonated an explosive device, fatally wounding Norgrove, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information,
"Afghan and coalition security forces did everything in their power to rescue Linda," said Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. "Linda was a courageous person with a passion to improve the lives of Afghan people, and sadly she lost her life in their service."
Norgrove worked for Development Alternatives Inc., a global consulting company based in the Washington, D.C., area.
"We are saddened beyond words by the death of a wonderful woman whose sole purpose in Afghanistan was to do good _ to help the Afghan people achieve a measure of prosperity and stability in their everyday lives as they set about rebuilding their country," DAI President James Boomgard said.
"A development professional to the core, Linda spent most of her adult life working for and managing projects in developing countries, mostly projects that help farmers and rural workers build sustainable livelihoods while protecting the environment," he said.
Norgrove, 36, worked on university-funded projects in Mexico and Uganda and managed a World Wildlife Fund forest program in Peru. From 2005 to 2008, she worked on United Nations projects that focused on community forestry and horticulture and the environment.
Later, she managed a U.N. program that provides job training for ex-combatants and the rural poor in Afghanistan's poppy-growing areas. She was an aid worker in Laos before returning to Afghanistan. She joined DAI in January and was guiding a program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to create jobs, boost local economies and strengthen local Afghan leadership to reduce reliance on the cultivation of poppies, used in making opium.
Separately in Afghanistan, four Italian soldiers were killed and another was seriously wounded in a bomb blast Saturday in western Farah province, said Gen. Massimo Fogari, a spokesman for Italy's Defense Ministry. The bomb exploded as a 70-vehicle convoy passed by insurgents, and then the soldiers came under small-arms fire.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi released a statement praising the work of Italian troops and saying he was saddened "by the tragic ambush."
The deaths brought to 24 the number of NATO forces killed this month. At least 2,012 NATO service members have died since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, according to an Associated Press count.
NATO also announced Saturday that joint forces seized more than 6,600 pounds (3,000 kilograms) of drugs, including heroin and opium, from vehicles searched in southern Afghanistan on Friday.
Associated Press Writer Alessandra Rizzo in Rome contributed to this report.