British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet the top US general in Afghanistan today amid new claims over the role American forces played in the death of British aid worker Linda Norgrove.
General David Petraeus’ visit to Downing Street comes as it was reported that Ms Norgrove was killed after a US special forces soldier failed to see that she had broken away from her captors.
The Guardian said she was already lying in a foetal position to keep safe when an American grenade was thrown during an attempt to rescue her on Friday night.
A US-UK investigation is under way to establish what happened. US officials initially said Ms Norgrove, 36, died after one of her captors detonated a bomb vest but it later emerged that she may have been killed by a grenade thrown by US troops.
Gen Petraeus had already been due to meet Mr Cameron before the incident, but will now have the opportunity to discuss it in person.
The Guardian said that it had established, from sources in Kabul and London, that the soldier responsible was facing disciplinary action after failing to immediately inform his commanding officers that he had tossed the grenade.
The newspaper also claimed that the entire operation was watched on widescreen televisions at the command centre – a detail which raises further questions about why US officials initially claimed she had been killed by the bomb vest.
Mr Cameron, who has already spoken with the general and US president Barack Obama about the incident by telephone, said yesterday that the picture was still “unclear” about how the hostage situation had ended.
He added: “It is an impossibly difficult decision to make about whether to launch a raid and try to free a hostage.
“In the end we must all be clear: the responsibility for Linda’s death lies with those cowardly, ruthless people who took her hostage in the first place.”
Originally from Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands, Ms Norgrove was working for the US firm Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) in the east of Afghanistan when she was seized by militants in Kunar province on September 26.
Gen Petraeus, supreme commander of Nato troops in Afghanistan, will also be learning from the Prime Minister about the keenly anticipated defence review to be announced next week.
He will want reassurance about the impact of cuts at the Ministry of Defence on the UK’s role in Afghanistan.
There have been concerns in Washington that any scaling back of British defence capabilities may have implications for the UK’s ability to support the US in future deployments.