Diplomat’s killing believed to be first since Benghazi


Anne Smedinghoff (Image: Google+)

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ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan (CNN) — A young American woman was killed Saturday in Afghanistan in what is believed to be the first killing of a U.S. diplomat since a September attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was delivering books to a school, along with a U.S. civilian from the Defense Department, when a bomb struck their convoy in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. The civilian’s name has not been released.

The attack also took the lives of three U.S. service members, killed Afghan civilians, and wounded four more State Department personnel. One of them is in critical condition in a hospital in Kandahar, Kerry said.

Smedinghoff was “vivacious, smart, capable, often chosen by the ambassador for her capabilities,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.

Kerry met Smedinghoff less than a month ago, he told journalists in Istanbul. She was part of his team at the time.

Diplomat’s family: ‘She was doing what she loved

After a tour of duty in Caracas, Venezuela, Smedinghoff volunteered for an assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and had been working as a public diplomacy officer there since July, her parents said in a statement.

She joined the Foreign Service three years ago after graduating from college, “and there was no better place for her,” Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff said.

“She particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war,” they said. “We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world.”

Kerry was emotional Sunday as he spoke of Smedinghoff’s death, and noted he had called her family to express his condolences.

“I think there are no words for anybody to describe the extraordinarily harsh contradiction of a young 25-year-old woman with all of the future ahead of her, believing in the possibilities of diplomacy, of changing people’s lives, of making a difference, having an impact, who was taking knowledge in books to deliver them to a school,” he said.

Her work embodied everything the United States is pushing for, Kerry said.

“The folks who want to kill people, and that’s all they want to do, are scared of knowledge. And they want to shut the doors and they don’t want people to make their choices about the future. For them, it’s ‘You do things my way and if you don’t, we’ll throw acid in your face. We’ll put a bullet in your face,’ to a young girl trying to learn. So this is a huge challenge for us,” Kerry said. “It is a confrontation with modernity, with possibilities, and everything that our country stands for, everything we stand for, is embodied in what Anne Smedinghoff stood for.”

Kerry has condemned the killing of all five Americans.

A second attack Saturday took the life of another U.S. service member.

“I wish everyone in our country could see first-hand the devotion, loyalty and amazingly hard and hazardous work our diplomats do on the front lines in the world’s most dangerous places,” Kerry said in a statement Saturday. “Every day, we honor their courage and are grateful for their sacrifices, and today we do so with great sadness.”

Afghan children killed

At least 10 Afghan children were killed Saturday in a joint military operation by Afghan and NATO forces, according to two Afghan officials.

Mohammed Zaher Sapai, district governor of Shigal district, and Wasaif Ullah Wasfi, spokesman for the governor of Kunar province, said the children were among 18 or 19 people killed in the operation.

“We take these reports of civilian injuries very seriously,” said John Manley, spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

U.S. military brass visits

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, is in Afghanistan for meetings with coalition and Afghan leaders.

Dempsey will be briefed on the ongoing military transition, where Afghan security forces are taking greater control of their country.

He will meet with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, who took command of ISAF about two months ago.

“One of the things I’m going to ask (Dunford) is … what have you learned,” Dempsey told the American Forces Press Service.

“If he tells me ‘Nothing,’ I’m going to say, ‘Maybe we got the wrong guy.'”

By Ben Brumfield, Michael Martinez, and Josh Levs, CNN. CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet, Josh Levs, Jill Dougherty, Jamie Crawford, Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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