Family, friends mourn loss of US diplomat in Afghanistan
Washington: Relatives and colleagues of a young US diplomat killed in Afghanistan honoured her on Sunday as a smart woman just starting her career, eager to engage with locals in the war-ravaged country.
Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was among at least five Americans killed in separate attacks on Saturday, in the deadliest day in Afghanistan this year, as she travelled with Afghan officials to distribute books to students.
"She particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people," her parents Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff said in a statement.
She "was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war," they added.
The last American diplomat killed on the job was US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
He died along with three other Americans -- two embassy security personnel and an information officer -- in an attack on the US diplomatic mission in the eastern city of Benghazi on September 11.
Secretary of State John Kerry, travelling in Turkey, lashed out at the "cowardly" Taliban extremists who killed the "selfless, idealistic" young diplomat.
"Anne and those with her were attacked by Taliban terrorists who woke up that day not with a mission to educate or to help, but with a mission to destroy," Kerry said during a press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
"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 met Smedinghoff during a visit to Afghanistan two weeks ago as she assisted him.
At least three US soldiers and another civilian were killed in the attack that saw a suicide car bomber strike a NATO convoy in the southern province of Zabul.
Another US civilian was killed in a separate assault in eastern Afghanistan.
Speaking to staff and families at the US Consulate General in Istanbul, Kerry acknowledged that such attacks pose a "huge challenge" as US troops and their NATO allies prepare for a withdrawal at the end of next year.
"It's a grim reminder to all of us, though we didn't need any reminders, of how important and also how risky carrying the future is... and just trying to provide opportunity to those young boys and girls and men and women in Afghanistan."