Indian-American aid worker Anita Datar is the only known American killed in Mali

Washington Post (by Donna St. George, Joe Heim and Matt Zapotosky):

The death of Anita Datar, the only American known to be killed in the siege on a hotel in Mali, touched off a wave of mourning Saturday that reached from colleagues in Washington and neighbors in Maryland to the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Datar, 41, was remembered for her passionate commitment to her work in international development, her love for her young son and her gift for laughter. She was in Mali with two co-workers — both of whom survived Friday’s attack — working on a health policy project for Palladium, a global development company with offices in Washington.

The U.S. ambassador to Mali called Datar’s family late Friday afternoon to inform them of her death, Datar’s mother, Sunanda Datar, said in a phone call.

“We are devastated that Anita is gone — it’s unbelievable to us that she has been killed in this senseless act of violence and terrorism,” her brother Sanjeev Datar said in a statement. “Anita was one of the kindest and most generous people we know. She loved her family and her work tremendously. Everything she did in her life she did to help others — as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend. And while we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and health care to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance.”

The divorced mother of a second-grader, Datar was Palladium’s senior director for field programs for Health Policy Plus, a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project aimed at improving reproductive health in developing countries. Datar had devoted much of the past 10 years of her career pursuing global public health, particularly family planning and HIV, according to Palladium and her LinkedIn profile.

Edward Abel, president of Palladium’s U.S. business unit, said he did not have details about what unfolded inside the hotel or how Datar was killed while her colleagues escaped harm. “From what I understand, they were on the lower floors of the hotel, and Anita was not,” he said.

Abel said Datar had worked at the company for 11 years and described her as “brilliant” and “a wonderful colleague and friend.” He said she was “a true inspiration” to younger associates. “Her work had real impact and touched many people’s lives in the countries in which she worked,” he said.

Those who knew her say Datar’s foremost passion was her 7-year-old son, Rohan, a student at Takoma Park Elementary School. His photos are prominent on her Facebook page, where he is shown smiling on his bike, dressing up for Halloween and mugging for the camera with his arm around his mom.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton joined in the sorrow Saturday, issuing a statement mourning Datar’s death and praising the work she did. Datar’s ex-husband, David Garten, was one of Clinton’s policy advisers when she served in the Senate.

“Anita Datar was a bright light who gave help and hope to people in need around the world, especially women and families . . . she represented the best of America’s generous spirit,” Clinton said.

“My prayers are with the Datar and Garten families, especially Anita and David’s son,” Clinton said. “My heart breaks thinking of the burden he will now bear on his small shoulders and the courage he will have to show in the days ahead.”

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