Officials: Aid Worker Killed By American Grenade, Not Suicide Bomber

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But in the past, American special operations forces have tried to keep militants penned inside Afghanistan, according to one Western official, and failed – New York Times reporter David Rohde was taken across the border into North Waziristan, and Sergeant First Class Bowe Bergdahl is believed to have been taken to the same Pakistani tribal area.

"Those on the ground and in London feared that she was going to be passed up the terrorist chain, which would increase further the already high risk that she would be killed," Cameron said.

Norgrove, the daughter of a charity worker and an engineer, led a $150 million program in eastern Afghanistan, where she worked with a team to build roads and bridges and improve the capabilities of district governments. Her friends and colleagues described her as deeply respectful toward Afghanistan and its culture, eschewing the kinds of security measures that most Westerners take -- especially in the part of the country where she worked.

"Linda had extraordinary composure and inner strength," said Nick Horne, who hiked with Norgrove in northeastern Afghanistan last summer. She had come to love the country so much during her previous time living here, she took three weeks of her annual leave to spend in the Wakhan corridor with three friends.

She left Afghanistan after that trip but returned in January to run the program for Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a well-known contractor for the United States International Agency for Development. Westerners working for NGOs and contracting firms such as DAI in Afghanistan have had to severely restrict their movements in the last year and a half as violence in eastern and northern Afghanistan increased rapidly.

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Many aid workers say that in the northern and eastern parts of the country, they often can't go to small villages today they used to be able to visit just a year ago.

'The Use of a Hand Grenade Is Ridiculous'

Norgrove was in one of the most dangerous areas in all of Afghanistan -- something that her friends say she was worried about but largely took in stride, confident that keeping a low profile and not traveling with security was the safest way to travel.

"She believed in respecting of other people's environments," said friend Gerard Russell, who also hiked with her last summer. "She believed in getting close to people, and understanding them."

In July a group of Western aid workers were kidnapped and killed in a district north of where Norgrove died. Security has already been severely tightened by Western organizations working in Afghanistan, and many workers will soon not be able to travel much at all.

"It's a blow for people's morale for people who want to work in the field," Russell said. "We should celebrate these people and what they do – while it's still going on."

Elite American special operations forces have become familiar with the rugged landscape of eastern Afghanistan as have they more than doubled targeted raids against mid-level Taliban commanders there this year. They are extremely well trained, but in an operation such as this one, there is a thin line between success and failure.

"These guys are experts, but they're going into a situation they can't control," says a former Army Ranger.

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