Smedinghoffs father, Tom Smedinghoff, told the Chicago Tribune that his daughter always was looking for ways to get out of the compound and do things to help Afghans. He told ABC that she was eager to travel throughout the country. Her family was coping in part by the reminder that shed died doing what she loved, he said.
Zabul, which borders the Taliban haven of Pakistan and the birthplace of the Afghan insurgency, Kandahar province, is among the most dangerous places in the country for foreigners and Afghan security forces, and the warm-months fighting season has just begun. NATO forces have lost 110 troops there since 2001, and the violent nature of the province was underscored Saturday. In addition to Smedinghoff, three U.S. soldiers and a civilian Defense Department employee died in the suicide bombing. Their identities havent yet been released.
According to local officials in Zabul, the bomber detonated his explosives-laden car as a convoy that was carrying the provincial governor passed en route to the school for the donation ceremony. The Americans apparently were in another convoy headed for the school and had emerged from their base just as the governor passed.
The State Department says the attack is under investigation. Tom Smedinghoff told the Chicago Tribune that the attacker either had rammed the vehicle his daughter was in or was close to it when the bomb exploded.
In a statement emailed to McClatchy, a Taliban spokesman took credit for the attack and said the bomber had hoped to target the governor or the Americans and that the Taliban were pleased that hed been able to hit both.
Four other State Department officials were among those wounded in the blast, one of them critically. The governor escaped injury, but several people in his convoy were hurt. An Afghan doctor who died was in front of a hospital that was near the blast.
Smedinghoff grew up in the Chicago suburb of River Forest and attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she majored in international studies.
She joined the State Department immediately after college and had served in Venezuela before volunteering for a stint in Afghanistan, according to a statement her parents issued. She already had been preparing for her next assignment: two years in Algeria.
Roy Gutman contributed to this article from Istanbul.