Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Diplomat 'a selfless, idealistic woman'

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CHICAGO -- The young U.S. diplomat killed Saturday in southern Afghanistan showed a love of global affairs from an early age, joining the Foreign Service straight out of college and volunteering for missions in perilous locations worldwide.

So when 25-year-old Anne Smedinghoff became the first American diplomat to die on the job since last September's attack in Benghazi, Libya, her family took solace in that she died doing what she loved.

"It was a great adventure for her... She loved it," her father, Tom Smedinghoff, told The Associated Press on Sunday. "She was tailor-made for this job."

Smedinghoff died when the group she was travelling with was struck by an explosion in southern Zabul province. They were en route to donate textbooks to students. The U.S. Department of Defence did not release the names of the others who died: three U.S. soldiers and one civilian employee of the Pentagon.

Anne Smedinghoff studied international relations at Johns Hopkins University and became a key organizer of the university's annual Foreign Affairs Symposium in 2008. The event draws high-profile speakers from around the world.

Her first assignment for the foreign service was in Caracas, Venezuela, and she volunteered for the Afghanistan assignment after that. Her father said family members would tease her about signing up for a less dangerous location, maybe London or Paris.

"She said, 'What would I do in London or Paris? It would be so boring,' " her father recalled. In her free time, she would travel as much as possible.

Smedinghoff was to finish her Afghanistan assignment as a press officer in July. Already fluent in Spanish, she was preparing to learn Arabic before a two-year assignment in Algeria.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday at a news conference in Turkey that Smedinghoff was "vivacious, smart" and "capable." Smedinghoff had assisted Kerry during a visit to Afghanistan two weeks ago.

He also described Smedinghoff as "a selfless, idealistic woman who woke up yesterday morning and set out to bring textbooks to schoolchildren, to bring them knowledge."

Her father said they knew the assignments were dangerous, though she spent most of her time at the U.S. Embassy compound.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 8, 2013 A12

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