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British hostage in Afghanistan killed during rescue attempt

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Aid worker killed in rescue attempt
  • NEW: PM says Linda Norgrove "was doing valuable work"
  • Aid agency leader is "devastated" over the news
  • The abduction occurred last month in eastern Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan
  • NATO
  • United Kingdom

London, England (CNN) -- A British aid worker held hostage in eastern Afghanistan since late last month was killed by her captors during a rescue attempt on Friday night, officials said.

The woman was identified as Linda Norgrove, who worked for DAI -- an agency that provides various services to developing nations. Norgrove, who was age 36, spent much of her career managing projects for farmers and rural workers.

James Boomgard, DAI president and chief executive officer, called the news "devastating" and said his operation is "saddened beyond words by the death of a wonderful woman whose sole purpose in Afghanistan was to do good.".

"Linda loved Afghanistan and cared deeply for its people, and she was deeply committed to her development mission. She was an inspiration to many of us here at DAI and she will be deeply missed."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement that Norgrove "was doing valuable work for the Afghan people."

"Decisions on operations to free hostages are always difficult. But where a British life is in such danger, and where we and our allies can act, I believe it is right to try. I pay tribute to the courage and skill of all those involved in this effort," he said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a written statement that his forces received information about where she was held and "decided that, given the danger she was facing, her best chance of safe release was to act on that information,"

"Responsibility for this tragic outcome rests squarely with the hostage takers. From the moment they took her, her life was under grave threat. Given who held her, and the danger she was in, we judged that Linda's best chance lay in attempting to rescue her."

Norgrove was being held by two Taliban commanders, Mullah Basir and Mullah Keftan, who were both killed in the raid, an Afghan intelligence official said.

An Afghan official said last month that the British woman, two Afghan drivers and a security guard had been kidnapped after an exchange of gunfire September 26 in the Chawkay district of eastern Kunar province.

Abdul Marjan Adel, a local provincial official, had said that the four were being held in a "very remote area," and that Afghan and international forces were looking for them. He said they were healthy and located in the Dewcar valley.

Provincial officials had created a council of district elders, religious scholars and provincial council members to negotiate with the abductors, he said.

The three Afghans kidnapped with Norgrove had been released days ago, according to another Afghan intelligence official and a local provincial government official.

Hague expressed his gratitude to NATO allies and Afghan forces "for doing all they could to secure the safe release of the woman."

"Hostage taking is never justified and the UK does not make concessions to hostage-takers. But whenever British nationals are kidnapped, we and our allies will do everything in our power to free them," he said.

DAI said Norgrove worked in projects around the world, including Afghanistan, Laos, Mexico, Uganda, and Peru, and was involved in projects for the United Nations.

She joined DAI in January and has been a senior manager on a program to create jobs, improve local economies and help local leaders "reduce reliance on the opium economy," the group said in a statement.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the ISAF commander passed along his condolences.

"Afghan and coalition security forces did everything in their power to rescue Linda," 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."

Last year, British troops freed New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell from Taliban captivity in a raid but his interpreter, Sultan Munadi, died in the rescue effort. A British commando was also killed, as were a woman and child.

Security forces in Afghanistan this week captured a Taliban leader who was "directly involved" in the kidnapping, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

CNN's Ivan Watson and Joe Sterling contributed to this report