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'She was doing what she loved': Young diplomat among 6 Americans killed in Afghanistan

Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was killed Saturday when a suicide car bomber blew up their convoy along with four other Americans. Although she recognized the dangers and risks in Afghanistan, her family and friends said she still loved the job.  NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

Family, friends and State Department colleagues on Sunday were mourning the first death of an American diplomat on duty since Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11 last year.

Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was one of five Americans killed in a car bomb attack on Saturday in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday. Three of the dead were U.S. service members and the fifth a civilian employee of the Defense Department, Kerry said.

Atia Abawi / NBC News

They had not been named as of Sunday morning.

Several Afghans and four other State Department employees were injured, one critically.

A sixth American civilian working with the U.S. government was killed in a separate attack in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, ISAF said in a statement.

"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 with people who want to resist," Kerry told State Department employees on Sunday during a visit in Istanbul, Turkey.

Smedinghoff, whose business card read "Assistant Information Officer," and the other Americans were traveling in a convoy to southern Afghanistan to deliver textbooks to children in Qalat, Kerry said. 

He'd met the Illinois-native several weeks ago when she worked as his control officer during his recent trip to Afghanistan. He described her as "vivacious, smart, capable."

"There are no words for anyone to describe the extraordinary harsh contradiction for a young 25-year-old woman, with all of her future ahead of her, believing in the possibilities of diplomacy to improve people's lives, making a difference, having an impact" to be killed, Kerry said.

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

Buzkashi Boys is an intense, gritty film made in Afghanistan about two street children. After numerous international awards, the movie is now eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award. ITN's Emma Murphy reports.

Smedinghoff previously served in Venezuela.

In an email to the Washington Post, Smedinghoff's parents said their daughter "was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war."

They added: "We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world."

Smedinghoff's parents, who live near Chicago, said in a statement published by the Chicago Sun-Times that she joined the Foreign Service after college.

"She particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war," her parents, Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff, said.

In comments posted on the newspaper's website, former friends and colleagues expressed grief and disbelief.

"I am a friend and colleague of Anne. We were in Spanish class and served in Venezuela together. Anne was a light in an otherwise dark world. She made a difference to everyone she met," one commenter identified as David C. Grier, said.

Smedinghoff recently helped NBC News coordinate a report on "Buzkashi Boys," the short film nominated for an Oscar starring an Afghan boy who was discovered on the streets of Kabul.

Local Afghan producer Khyber Shinwari described her as "a lovely lady, charming – smiling on her face."

The two Afghan teens who starred in the short critically acclaimed film 'Buzkashi Boys' landed at LAX this week to attend the Oscars. It was a far cry from their home country, where one of the boys – Fawad – sold maps on the streets to help support his family. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

"She was very open and so helpful. So kind," he said. "She was here to help Afghans."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Zabul attack in a text message Saturday. The assault came just three days after 54 people were killed in another Taliban attack on a courtroom in the western Farah province of Afghanistan.

The United Nations has said civilians are increasingly being targeted this year.

On his first day in office, Kerry said the safety of State Department employees was a top priority, in the wake of the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. No one has been convicted as of yet.

NBC News' Jamieson Lesko, Kiko Itsaka and Catherine Chomiak, and The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Diplomat Anne Smedinghoff was among the six Americans killed in two separate attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday -- the deadliest day for Americans in that country since August. NBC's Ron Mott reports.

Related:

'We have to go': Afghans ready to flee country as foreign troops withdraw

54 killed, 90 wounded in attack on Afghan compound

Tears of joy: The moment an Afghan teen learned of Oscar nomination

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