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American Killed in Afghan Attack ID'd

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

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ATLANTA — 

An American contractor killed in an attack on a hotel in Afghanistan knew the assignment was risky but took it anyway, a family friend said Tuesday.

Thor Hesla, 45, of Atlanta, worked for BearingPoint Management & Technology Consultants, which had a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development to help war-ravaged Afghanistan rebuild, a company spokesman said.

He was one of the eight people killed in the bombing and shooting attack Monday on the Serena Hotel in Kabul. Authorities in Kabul said an American, a Norwegian journalist and a Filipina who died of her wounds Tuesday were among those killed.

A longtime family friend, Margaret Hylton Jones, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Hesla was aware of the danger of Afghanistan, his most recent assignment after stints in Kosovo, South Africa and Kazakhstan.

Hesla "put his affairs in order" before leaving for the assignment, which began Nov. 1, Jones said, including updating his will. He took his father, a retired Emory University professor, on a trip to New York and spent time with his 12-year-old niece and 10-year-old nephew.

He wrote friends that he lived and traveled with armed guards and was limited to certain restaurants and bars because of the danger. Kabul was safer than Baghdad, he said, but "the situation is deteriorating."

The country's intelligence chief linked the attack on the high-profile property, frequented by Westerners, to a Pakistani militant. Afghan officials arrested four people and said they included one of the three attackers, who was disguised in a police uniform for the assault.

Hesla was a graduate of Emory and spent years working as a political consultant and organizer, including with the 1996 Olympics, the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, and former President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.

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