6 Americans, including young diplomat, killed in Afghanistan

Posted at 10:45 AM, Apr 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-07 10:46:29-04

By Ben Brumfield, Michael Martinez

(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: ‘The world lost a truly beautiful soul’

In a statement to the Washington Post, Smedinghoff’s family wrote, “The world lost a truly beautiful soul today.”

“Anne absolutely loved the work she was doing. Her first assignment was in Caracas, Venezuela. She then volunteered for an assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which she began in July, 2012. Working as a public diplomacy officer, 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. 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.

“She was such a wonderful woman — strong, intelligent, independent, and loving. Annie, you left us too soon; we love you and we’re going to miss you so much.”

Kerry was emotional Sunday as he spoke of Smedinghoff’s death.

“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.

The secretary called Smedinghoff’s family in Pennsylvania to express his condolences.

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.'”

CNN’s Josh Levs, Jill Dougherty, Jamie Crawford, Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.