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Story of American Diplomat's Death in Afghanistan Changes

9:37 AM, Apr 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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State Department employee Anne Smedinghoff was killed in Afghanistan last weekend. At first reports suggested the young diplomat was part of an armed convoy that was bombed, but new reports say that she was actually on foot. And that the group she was with got lost on its way to deliver books.

ABC reported earlier in the week:

Afghan security officials told ABC News that the State Department convoy had just left its headquarters in Qalat and joined the convoy of the local provincial governor who was also headed to the school book giveaway.

That's when two suicide attackers attacked the convoy. The security officials said there was an initial car bomb detonated by a remote device. Then a suicide bomber wearing a suicide vest appeared and caused more casualties.

Afghan sources say the school event had been announced a day in advance, which possibly allowed attackers enough time to plan the attack.

CBS had a similar version:

And now a local ABC affiliate in Chicago, where Smedinghoff was from, says the diplomat was on foot:

Diplomat Anne Smedinghoff of River Forest was on foot when she was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

Officials said Smedinghoff and her group were on foot and not in an armored vehicle when they were killed last weekend, according to witnesses and U.S. officials interviewed by McClatchy newspapers. One of the witnesses is an Afghan TV reporter who says they were lost while walking from a book-donation event.

The McClatchy report cited by ABC reads:

 

A promising young U.S. Foreign Service officer, three American soldiers and a civilian government contractor who were killed Saturday in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan probably wouldn’t have been close to the blast if they hadn’t gotten lost while walking to the school where they were to participate in a book-donation ceremony, according to an Afghan television reporter who was with them and was wounded in the attack.

Ahmad Zia Abed, a reporter for Shamshad TV, said he and a videographer from his station were among about a dozen people, including the officer, Anne Smedinghoff, 25, whom American soldiers were escorting on the 200-yard walk from the local headquarters of the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team to what they thought was the school. A man at the gate said they had the wrong place, though, that this was the provincial agriculture institute.

The group retraced its steps to the American base to figure out what to do next, Abed said. The entrance to the base is just a few feet from the street, he said, and just as they reached it, walking more or less in single file, something slammed into his back and he staggered forward. Disoriented, he saw a car wheel roll past him.

"At first I thought that a car had left the road and struck me," he said. "But then I turned around and saw it had been a bomb."

Abed’s account of the bombing, the most detailed to surface since the explosion, raises new questions about the circumstances that led to the deadliest combat incident in Afghanistan for Americans this year and contradicts what relatives of the victims have said they were told – that Smedinghoff and her military escorts had been in an armored vehicle when it was rammed by a suicide vehicle. Smedinghoff was the first American diplomat to die in Afghanistan during more than 11 years of warfare here.

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