CHICAGO — A young diplomat from River Forest, Ill., was among five Americans killed Saturday in an explosion in Afghanistan, according to her family and the U.S. State Department.
Anne Smedinghoff was 25, said her father, Tom Smedinghoff, who was reached by phone.
“She was doing what she loved, and she was doing great things,” her father said. “We’re just in total shock.”
In remarks to an audience of consulate employees Sunday in Istanbul, Secretary of State John Kerry said he had met Anne Smedinghoff when he had been in Afghanistan two weeks ago and recalled her as “vivacious, smart, capable.”
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In Turkey today, Kerry called Smedinghoff a “selfless, idealistic young woman” lost to a “horrific attack.”
Kerry said Smedinghoff died in an attempt to deliver textbooks to schoolchildren in Afghanistan.
“A brave American was determined to brighten the light of learning through books written in the native tongue of students that she had never met, but whom she felt compelled to help,” Kerry said, according to a State Department transcript. “She was met by cowardly terrorists determined to bring darkness and death to total strangers.”
Tom Smedinghoff said Kerry called him Saturday morning to let him know what had happened to his daughter.
“She was one of the people who was helping to coordinate his visit; she got to meet him. He spoke glowingly of the work she’s been doing,” Smedinghoff said of Kerry’s comments about his daughter, who The Washington Post said was the first U.S. diplomat to be killed in Afghanistan since the war began.
“He spoke very highly of her. It was very good to hear,” her father said.
Anne Smedinghoff was killed with three U.S. soldiers and a civilian employee of the Defense Department, Kerry said in a statement. They were in a convoy of vehicles in Zabul province when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated, killing them, Kerry said.
Tom Smedinghoff said his daughter went into the Foreign Service right out of college. Her first post was in Venezuela, and she volunteered to go to Afghanistan, where she had been since July.
As a diplomat, she was working in the public-diplomacy department for the local population. She was helping women and working for equality for women, and with schools and local businesses there.
Anne Smedinghoff simply adored her job, her father said.
“She was living in a compound that was heavily fortified, and she was always trying to get out and do things for the population.”
Smedinghoff said he only knew a few details of the last moments of her life.
“She was in a convoy … somebody with a car or a truck laden with explosives rammed into her vehicle.”
A NATO airstrike called in later by coalition forces after the attack in Zabul killed 11 civilians, 10 of them children, in addition to the Taliban extremists it was trying to hit, Afghan officials said.
Details of the civilian casualties surfaced Sunday.
Wasifullah Wasifi, spokesman for the governor of Kunar province, said the strike killed seven Taliban extremists, who were its target.
In addition to the 10 children, one civilian woman was killed and five other women were wounded, he said.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said in a written statement that six Taliban were killed in the airstrike. Accounts by different Afghan agencies sometimes differ.
Two of the dead, Taliban commanders Ali Khan and Gul Raouf, were the main planners and organizers of terrorist activities, armed assaults and explosions in the district and other parts of Kunar province, the ministry said.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was investigating the airstrike and could not confirm reports that a large number of children were killed.
“We are still assessing the situation,” said John Manley, an ISAF spokesman. “We’re aware of the allegations that civilians died. We take these seriously.”
Initial reports were that the strike took place away from buildings, Manley said. He said he had no information on how many insurgents were killed or the type of aircraft involved in the airstrike.
Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces have been a highly contentious issue in Afghanistan and a source of growing tension between Washington and the administration of President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai has forbidden Afghan troops from calling for airstrikes, and NATO advises crews not to drop bombs, or fire on populated areas.
Wasifi said relatives of the dead children brought their bodies to the district governor’s offices Sunday to protest.
Includes material from the Los Angeles Times