Five U.S. citizens, including two civilians, died in a suicide car bomb attack by the Taliban on their road convoy in southern Afghanistan, the deadliest attack on Americans in the country since July, officials said.
Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old diplomat originally from Illinois, and a civilian interpreter for the Defense Department were among victims of the blast yesterday in Zabul province, according to the U.S. State Department and defense officials and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. They were killed while on their way to donate books to a school, Secretary of State John Kerry said in the U.S. statement.
Smedinghoff “tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future,” Kerry said at a press conference in Istanbul. “We know too well the risks in the world today for all of our State Department personnel at home and around the world.”
The bombing took place in the provincial capital of Qalat at 11 a.m. local time as Zabul Governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasery and senior Afghan officials left his office and were joined by the U.S. delegation to inaugurate the school, said Deputy Governor Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar said in a phone interview.
Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing through spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi.
Nasery escaped unhurt but a state hospital doctor was killed and two of the governor’s bodyguards and a school student were wounded. Three U.S. soldiers were among those killed, according to the ISAF statement. Four other State Department employees were injured, with one in critical condition, Kerry said.
The attack took place hours after U.S. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed in Afghanistan in an unannounced visit to assess progress on local security forces’ preparations for taking control as U.S.-led international forces withdraw by the end of 2014, according to U.S. Department of Defense website.
The bombing was the deadliest for Americans in Afghanistan since July, when an attack in Wardak province killed six U.S. service members, according to ISAF. Smedinghoff was the first U.S. diplomat to die since an attack in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the life of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in September.
Kerry paid homage to Smedinghoff while visiting the U.S. consulate in Istanbul today. Smedinghoff served as Kerry’s aide during his visit last week to the Afghan capital, Kabul.