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Slain young diplomat's body returned to U.S.

DOVER, Del. -- The body of a young American diplomat killed in a terrorist attack in southern Afghanistan arrived back in the United States on Monday.

Anne Smedinghoff's coffin arrived at Dover Air Force Base in the afternoon for an official ceremony, which the State Department said earlier her family had asked be private. The family was expected to attend along with undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, Ambassador David Pearce and other officials.

The 25-year-old was one of five Americans killed Saturday by a suicide car bomb as they delivered textbooks to schoolchildren. The State Department has not released the names of the other four who were killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Smedinghoff's family has taken solace in knowing she died doing what she loved. She is the first American diplomat to die on the job since last year's attack in Benghazi, Libya. Smedinghoff was remembered as having a quiet ambition and having displayed a love of global affairs from an early age. She joined the U.S. Foreign Service straight out of college and volunteered for missions in perilous locations worldwide.

"It was a great adventure for her . . . She loved it," her father, Tom Smedinghoff, said Sunday. "She was tailor-made for this job."

Anne Smedinghoff grew up in River Forest, Ill., an upscale suburb about 10 miles west of Chicago. She attended Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in international studies 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.

Speaking in a phone interview yesterday from Kabul, Solmaz Sharisi said her desk was next to Smedinghoff's at the embassy, where they were assistant information officers. Working with Western and Afghan journalists, the two became close friends, she said.

"What I admired most was her energy and enthusiasm and an unwavering commitment to the work she was doing," Sharisi said. "And it really did have an impact."

One of Smedinghoff's favorite projects was helping the Afghan women's soccer team to gain greater acceptance in Afghanistan. To better interact with the players, Smedinghoff practiced her own soccer skills on her days off, Sharisi said. "She was young but she almost seemed like a seasoned foreign diplomat," Sharisi said.

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