Kerry mourns 'selfless, idealistic' US diplomat



Istanbul: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday railed against the "cowardly" terrorists responsible for the attack that killed five Americans in Afghanistan, including a "selfless, idealistic" young diplomat on a mission to donate books to students.

In the deadliest day in eight months for the United States in the war, militants killed six Americans in separate attacks Saturday, the violence occurring hours after the US military's top officer arrived in Afghanistan for consultations with Afghan and US-led coalition officials.

Kerry, in Turkey for meetings with the country's leaders, said 25-year-old Anne Smedinghoff of Illinois had assisted him when he visited Afghanistan two weeks ago. She served as his control officer, an honor often bestowed on up-and-coming members of the US foreign service.

At a news conference with Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, Kerry described Smedinghoff as "a selfless, idealistic woman who woke up yesterday morning and set out to bring textbooks to school children, to bring them knowledge."

"Anne and those with her," Kerry said, "were attacked by the Taliban terrorists who woke up that day not with a mission to educate or to help, but with a mission to destroy. A brave American was determined to brighten the light of learning through books, written in the native tongue of the students she had never met, whom she felt it incumbent to help."

Kerry said Smedinghoff "was met by a cowardly terrorist determined to bring darkness and death to total strangers. These are the challenges that our citizens face, not just in Afghanistan but in many dangerous parts of the world where a nihilism, an empty approach, is willing to take life rather than give it."

The attack also killed three US service members, a US civilian who worked for the US Defence Department and an Afghan doctor when the group was struck by an explosion while traveling to a school in southern Afghanistan, according to coalition officials and the State Department.

Another American civilian was killed in a separate attack in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said in a statement.

It was the deadliest day for Americans since August 16, when seven US service members died in two attacks in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency.

Six were killed when their helicopter was shot down by insurgents and one soldier died in a roadside bomb explosion.

Officials said the explosion yesterday came just as a coalition convoy drove past a caravan of vehicles carrying the governor of Zabul province to the event at the school.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility and said the bomber was seeking to target either a coalition convoy or the governor.

Kerry said the terrorists only "strengthened the resolve of the nation, the diplomatic corps, the military, all resources determined to continue the hard work of helping people to help themselves."

PTI