The Story Of Linda Norgrove
by Alison MacRae
With my deep connections and the love for the Isle of Lewis, I am always interested in reading about the habitats and the area, so when I came across this story a while ago it stuck with me and I felt I wanted to write my version of the story.
It is a sad one. I truly do admire and respect people that selflessly help in other countries as aid workers, with all the dangers that surround them. This is the story of Linda Norgrove, a Scottish Aid Worker who devoted most of her life educating herself so that she could help others tirelessly. In 2010 her life came to a devastating tragic end.
Above is a photo of Linda found on Wikipedia.
Linda was born in 1974, in a small hamlet called Altnaharra, located in Sutherland the Highland region of Northern Scotland. Her parents moved to the Isle of Lewis shortly after she was born. She attended a primary school in Uig. After high school, she attended the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, which is on the Isle of Lewis.
While attending the University of Aberdeen she received a first class honour degree in Tropical Environmental Science. Her post graduate research brought her to the University of Chiapas in Mexico, followed by a year of study at the University of Oregon. Linda attended the University of London with distinction in Rural Resources and Environmental policy, in 1997.
Linda later received a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in Development and Management. In 2011 the University of Manchester posthumously honoured Linda with an outstanding alumni award. She worked from 2002 to 2005 for The World Wide Fund in Peru, supporting and supervising the WWF's Forest program in the Peruvian Andes.
From 2005 to 2008 she was working for the United Nations as Regional Director of an International Development Company based in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
The year 2008 brought her back to Mexico. From 2008 – 2009 she traveled from Mexico to Uganda researching the effects of National Park Management on the indigenous population near Mount Elgon National Park, located on the border of Uganda and Kenya. (An interesting fact, the well-known novel King Solomon's Mines may have been inspired by the Mt.Elgon Caves within the park.)
At the time of her death, in addition to her aid work, Linda was doing a distance learning for her MBA combining inspirational teaching with flexible online learning at the University of Warwick.
As you can see she spent a lot of her own time and energy working and getting more education as she so wanted to help others that she came in contact with during her life span.
On September 26, 2010, Linda and her three Afghan colleagues were traveling in the Chaw Kay district of Eastern Kumar province. While driving along the main highway from Jalalabad to Asabadad in the Dewael valley they were ambushed and kidnapped by local insurgents. Linda was well aware of the dangers traveling on that stretch of highway. Two months earlier a U.S.military convoy was ambushed on the same stretch of road. That was likely why she was wearing a burqa to disguise her foreign appearance. (A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover themselves in public).
Her captors made her wear men's clothing to disguise that she was a woman. The command units of the U.S.Army and Afghan troops, along with the police, had begun a 12- day door-to-door search looking for her. They had also posted road blocks at the valley entrance as they were wanting to make sure the captors did not get Linda into Pakistan. That was a big fear as it would have been a nightmare if she had been smuggled into that country.
Linda had taught herself to speak Dari, an Afghan version of Persian, to help her with her Afghan staff and the local communities she visited and worked in.
The captors were reported to demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui in return for Linda's freedom. Aafia had been given an 86-year prison sentence in the U.S. on the same day as Linda was abducted.
During her, captivity Linda asked her captors if they were going to kill her, and they assured her she would not be killed, that was not their purpose. A week later the three Afghans captured with Linda were released.The date was October 3rd.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague, approved a United States special operations effort to rescue Linda.
On the 13th night of captivity, the special operations team were given a code name it was called “Enterprise.”
It was still unclear at the time of the night-time operation who had kidnapped Linda and her colleagues. It was assumed a raid by the U.S.Seals and Army Rangers, wearing night vision goggles, that the local commanders Mullah Basir and Mullah Keftan had given the orders, as these men were killed in that raid.
The Rangers secured the enemy position and all six Taliban gunmen who fought the U.S. Forces were killed.
Sometime during this gunfight, Linda had been dragged outside the building where she was being held captive. Somehow she had broken away and the video footage of the raid showed an explosion in her vicinity. They found her injured in a gully with a gunshot wound to her leg.
She was removed by helicopter and received medical care, but died. It was reported that she had been killed by one of her captors setting off a suicide vest.
The other women and children in the compound were uninjured and no members of the rescue team were wounded.
In a written statement British Foreign Secretary, William Hague announced Linda Norgrove's death. British Prime Minister, Cameron defended the rescue attempt saying “Decisions on operations to free hostages are always difficult but where a British life is in such danger and when we and our allies can act, I believe it is right to try."
A military investigation was conducted, and President Obama had promised to find answers to this raid and how she had died and what had gone wrong.
It was found that a grenade was thrown toward the gully at the insurgents by a member of the rescue team who feared for his own life and those of the team. When the grenade was thrown no member of the team had seen or heard Linda. The navy seals had not immediately notified senior officers about throwing the grenade. This breached military law and number of sailors were disciplined.
Linda Norgrove's body was returned to Scotland on 14th October on a Royal Air Force flight. A humanist funeral ceremony attended by hundreds of people was held on 26 October at the Uig Community Centre, and Linda was buried at Ardoll cemetery, the Isle of Lewis.
First Minister of Scotland, Alan Salmond said: “Ms.Norgrove was a dedicated aid worker who was doing everything she could to help people in Afghanistan. Hopefully, that legacy of service in a humanitarian cause can be of some comfort to her loved ones in their time of grief."
Her parents, John and Lorna Norgove had built a Bothy with stones and wood into the cliffs of Mangersta on the Isle of Lewis. The Norgroves built this over 30 years ago. This was built on dangerous cliffs but the view is spectacular from there. The Norgroves only ask if you are wanting to stay the night to let them know as it is booked up a lot in the summer time, and it is free, no charge whatever to stay the night in this. This has been made into a tribute to their daughter Linda. They also have a window in the Bothy that you can look out and see St. Kilda, this was the Island that the entire population was evacuated in 1930.
Also, you can see the Flannan Isle, where the terrible lighthouse disaster happened and my Great Uncle Joseph Moore, who was returning from leave, was the first man to step on the Island to find that the lighthouse keepers were missing.
John and Lorna Norgrove started up the Linda Norgrove Foundation which funds education, health, and childcare for women and children affected by the war in Afghanistan. They have raised more than 300,000 Pounds in funding projects with guidance and support from DAI. This has helped them to help and continue Linda's relief work.
(Stornoway photo, below, by LornaMCampbell, from Wikipedia.)