A 25-year-old Foreign Service officer from suburban Chicago who was among five Americans killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan was being remembered Sunday as "a bright and brave young woman."
Anne Smedinghoff died Saturday in an IED blast while donating books to a school in Qalat in Zabul province. Three U.S. soldiers and a civilian employee also died. Four state department employees were injured, one critically.
The other victims had not been identified Sunday. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the nation mourns all the vicims, said he recently met Smedinghoff during a visit to Afghanistan.
"A brave American was determined to brighten the light of learning through books written in the native tongue of the students that she had never met, but whom she felt compelled to help," Kerry said while visiting Turkey. "She was met by cowardly terrorists determined to bring darkness and death to total strangers."
Smedinghoff was the first diplomat to die on the job since the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens almost seven months ago. Kerry described Smedinghoff as selfless, idealistic and determined to make the world a better place.
"Anne was everything that is right about our Foreign Service," Kerry said. "She was smart and capable, committed to our country... She was someone who worked hard and put her life on the line so that others could live a better life. Our hearts go out to Anne's mother and father, with whom I spoke yesterday, and to the two sisters and the brother who survive her."
Her father, Tom Smedinghoff said the family found some peace in the knowledge that his daughter died doing what she loved, trying to to make the world better.
"It was a great adventure for her ... She loved it," he said. "She was tailor-made for this job."
Smedinghoff joined the Foreign Service straight out of college, serving first in Caracas, Venezuela. She then volunteered for assignment in Afghanistan.
"She said, 'What would I do in London or Paris? It would be so boring,'" her father said. In her free time, she would travel, her father said.
Her father told the Chicago Tribune that in Afghanistan she worked in public diplomacy for the local population, helping women and working for equality for women.
"She was living in a compound that was heavily fortified and she was always trying to get out and do things for the population," he told the paper.
Provincial Gov. Mohammad Ashraf Nasery, who survived the attack in Qalat, said the explosion occurred in front of a hospital and a coalition base housing a provincial reconstruction team.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack and said the bomber was seeking to target either a coalition convoy or the governor.
"We were waiting for one of them," Ahmadi said. "It was our good luck that both appeared at the same time."
It was the deadliest day for Americans in Afghanistan since Aug. 16, when seven American service members were killed in two attacks in Kandahar province. Six died when their helicopter was shot down by insurgents and one soldier died in a roadside bomb explosion.