The Taliban is claiming responsibility for a suicide car bombing near the town of Qalat in southern Afghanistan Saturday that killed three American soldiers and two civilians, along with an Afghan doctor. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. troops since a bombing in eastern Afghanistan killed six American soldiers last July.
From the New York Times:
The bomber detonated his vehicle around 11 a.m. as an American convoy passed that was accompanying the provincial governor on a trip to inaugurate a new school in Qalat, the capital of Zabul Province, according to American and Afghan officials. At least one of the civilians worked for the State Department.
Update, April 7, 2013: In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack and expressed sympathy for the families of those killed in Saturday's bombing, including a 25-year-old U.S. Foreign Service Officer named Anne Smedinghoff.
From Kerry's statement:
"Just last week in Kabul, I met our fallen officer when she was selected to support me during my visit to Afghanistan. She was everything a Foreign Service Officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people. She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future."
Smedighoff's parents also released this statement about their daughter:
The world lost a truly beautiful soul today. Our daughter, Anne, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, died in the service of her country as she was traveling with a group to deliver books to a local school in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan. She joined the Foreign Service three years ago right out of college and there was no better place for her. Anne absolutely loved the work she was doing. Her first assignment was in Caracas, Venezuela. She then volunteered for an assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which she began in July, 2012. Working as a public diplomacy officer, 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. 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. She was such a wonderful woman—strong, intelligent, independent, and loving. Annie, you left us too soon; we love you and we're going to miss you so much.
Tom & Mary Beth Smedinghoff
(h/t Ernesto Lodoño)