Dangerous diplomacy: A look at U.S. diplomats killed in the line of duty

Story highlights

  • Several U.S. diplomats have died after being attacked
  • They include then-Ambassadors Christopher Stevens, John Mein and Francis Meloy

(CNN)Diplomacy can be dangerous. U.S. diplomats have come under attack in various places in the last few decades.

Here's a look at U.S. diplomats who have been killed in the line of duty.

1968 in Guatemala

    The first U.S. ambassador assassinated while in office was John Gordon Mein, the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala.
    According to a telegram from the embassy in Guatemala City, a young man dressed in fatigues and carrying a sub-machine gun on August 28, 1968, ordered Mein's vehicle to stop and for the ambassador to get out. He did, then ran -- prompting a cry of "Shoot him, kill him."
    Mein was shot and fell to the ground about 12 yards behind his limousine.

    1973 in Sudan

    Cleo Noel Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Sudan, was nearing the end of a March 1973 reception in the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum when terrorists stormed in.
    The gunmen took Noel and another American, as well as diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Jordan, according to a U.S. intelligence memo. The captors' demand: Free various people, mostly Palestinian guerillas, then imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.
    This spurred negotiations that didn't go anywhere, ending instead with the killing of Noel, fellow U.S. diplomat George Curtis Moore and Belgium's Charge d'Affaires. U.S. authorities say the assailants belonged to the Palestinian terrorist movement known as "Black September," claiming that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed off on the attack.

    1974 in Cyprus

    Ambassador Rodger Davies, who had been in Cyprus for less than months, hunkered down in a hallway on August 19, 1974, hoping he was safe from those involved in a nearby demonstration.
    Antoinette Varnava, a 31-year-old local who was part of the small embassy staff for about a decade, also died in the violence.

    1976 in Lebanon

    U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Francis Meloy, his economic counselor Robert O. Waring and their Lebanese driver disappeared in June 1976 as they crossed the Green Line, the division between Beirut's Christian and Muslim sectors.
    Their bullet-riddled bodies were found a short time later in mainly Muslim west Beirut, which was then controlled by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's guerrillas.
    Two former Muslim guerillas were convicted in the kidnapping and killings, only to be freed in 1996.

    1979 in Afghanistan

    About eight months after President Jimmy Carter appointed him as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs was taken from his car while heading home from the embassy.
    His captors took the Foreign Service veteran to the Hotel Kabul, where Dubs died in a shootout between captors and Afghan police -- a violent death that, whomever fired the fatal bullets, the U.S. State Department considers an assassination.

    1983 in Beirut

    A former eight-story hotel facing the sea transformed into America's embassy in Beirut turned into a war zone in April 1983, when a truck loaded with explosives was rammed into its entrance.
    The result was horrific. Offices were pancaked on top of each other, the elevator shaft and stairwell destroyed, the cafeteria full of bodies and rubble, recalled the then U.S. ambassador Robert Dillon, who himself was dug out of the rubble.
    While 44 people inside the embassy survived the blast, 17 Americans, 25 Foreign Service nationals, 10 contract workers and 10 visa applicants and passerby did not.
    In 2008, Dillon said the attack was believed to have been carried out by a family "under the direction of members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards."

    1998 in Kenya

    On August 7, 1998 -- around the exact same time a bomb went off at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 11 -- a huge explosion tore through the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
    A rescue worker stands on the remains of what used to be the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
    The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) lists eight people as having died in the attack on its memorial remembering Americans who died while serving the U.S. government abroad in a foreign affairs capacity. Twelve Americans total were killed.
    Those are both jarring numbers, but they're still a fraction of the more than 200 people total killed in the attack, in addition to more than 4,000 wounded.
    In May 2001, a U.S. jury found four purported al Qaeda members guilty on all charges stemming from the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

    2002 in Jordan

    As his wife of 34 years looked on, Laurence Foley was shot dead outside his home in Amman, Jordan, by a lone gunman in December 2002. A public servant for close to 40 years, the Boston-born Foley was serving as executive officer of the USAID mission in Amman at the time.
    U.S. officials were quick to label Foley's killing a murder, with the head of the AFSA calling it a "brutal terrorist attack."
    They later implicated Iraqi-based terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for providing "financial and other support to the terrorists who assassinated" Foley.

    2012 in Libya

    Exactly 11 years after the September 11 attacks in New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania, terrorists struck at Americans again -- this time some 5,000 miles away in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
    That's where Ambassador Christopher Stevens was when mortar and rocket fire struck a U.S. diplomatic annex there. Stevens didn't survive, nor did State Department computer expert Sean Smith or Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two former U.S. Navy SEALs then acting as security contractors.
    The attack was first portrayed as violence by an angry mob responding to a video made in the U.S. that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. But officials later determined that it was a terrorist attack.

    2013 in Afghanistan

    Anne Smedinghoff was a 25-year-old public diplomacy officer in Kabul when she was killed.
    Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old public diplomacy officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was delivering books to a school in southern Afghanistan when a suicide bomber smashed into her convoy.
    She died in that April 2013 attack, as did four others.
    "We thought she was relatively safe in the embassy compound," her father Tom Smedinghoff told CNN. "But as it turned out, Anne really wanted to do a lot more."