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Mr. Ventrell said in Wednesday’s briefing that the school was “a short distance away” — reports on the ground say 200 yards — and that the U.S. civilians in the group were wearing personal protective gear.

‘Under investigation’

A spokesman for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan told The Washington Times that an investigation is conducted whenever troops are killed in action.

“Normally it is the Brigade Commander who initiates” the investigation, Lt. Col. Rich Spiegel said in an email, adding that he wasn’t sure whether that was the case in this situation.

He said he could not comment further on the ongoing investigation.

“The State Department has been at war longer than the rest of the country,” said Mr. Carafano, noting that al Qaeda struck U.S. embassies in East Africa with coordinated suicide attacks several years before Sept. 11, 2001. “They’ve been a target since forever. They should be very good at risk management by now.”

In Benghazi, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed when a group of heavily armed extremists overran the U.S. diplomatic compound and, several hours later, attacked a nearby CIA annex.

In most cases in which U.S. diplomats are killed in the line of duty, an accountability review board must conduct a legally mandated investigation, but language in the law excludes fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Ventrell said four other State Department employees were injured in the blast. He identified one of them — the most seriously hurt — as Kelly Hunt, a public affairs officer who was evacuated to Germany.

“She is receiving the best possible medical care,” Mr. Ventrell said, adding that Secretary of State John F. Kerry had spoken with Ms. Hunt’s parents twice since the weekend “and conveyed his sympathy to the family during this difficult time.”

Two other injured State Department personnel were being treated at an allied medical facility in Afghanistan, and a fourth was released.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, a Virginia Republican who has pushed for a Watergate-style investigation of the Benghazi attack, released a letter Thursday supporting his campaign from Sean Smith’s mother.

“Please, please help me find out who is responsible and fix it so no more of our sons and daughters are abandoned by the country they love,” she wrote, endorsing Mr. Wolf’s resolution calling for a special investigative committee to be empaneled by the House speaker.

Two groups representing former military and intelligence personnel also voiced support this week for the resolution, in one case with an open letter to Congress signed by more than 700 veterans.