Teacher from Austin killed while jogging in Benghazi

American killed in Benghazi

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

A Libyan man walks by the Benghazi International School. American teacher Ronnie Smith of Texas, who worked at the school, was killed while jogging on December 5, 2013. (ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images)



Associated Press and KVUE.com

Posted on December 5, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 2:58 PM

Benghazi, Libya

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TRIPOLI, Libya — Unknown assailants shot an American teacher to death as he was jogging on Thursday in Benghazi, a hospital official said, underlining persistently tenuous security in the eastern Libyan city where the U.S. ambassador was killed last year.

Austin Stone Community Church identified the teacher as Ronnie Smith of Austin. The 33-year-old was due to return home for Christmas next week, NBC News reported. Smith's wife and young son had recently traveled to the U.S. for the holidays, International School Benghazi's principal Peter Hodge told the network.

Austin Stone sent its congregation news of Smith's passing on Thursday afternoon. The e-mail said, in part:

He was a brother in Christ and a faithful servant of this church for many years. We are currently grieving his loss, and awaiting the return of our King together. We are grateful that Ronnie is now in the presence of Jesus.

The church is currently ministering to Ronnie’s family by sending people to care for [his wife] and meeting their current needs.

The church went on to ask for prayers for Smith's wife, their son, and the rest of his family.

Fadyah al-Burghathi, spokeswoman for the Al-Galaa hospital, said Smith's body was brought to the hospital on Thursday with gunshot wounds. A security official said the American taught chemistry at the city's International School, a Libyan-owned institute that follows an American curriculum.

No one has claimed responsibility for the teacher's killing but suspicion is likely to fall on Islamic militants active in the city.

The security official, Ibrahim al-Sharaa, said Smith was jogging near the U.S. Consulate, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed by Islamic militants in September 2012.

Smith was one of four people killed in Benghazi on Wednesday and whose bodies were taken to the Al-Galaa hospital, showing the dangers of a city that is home to numerous armed groups resisting the central government's authority. The other three were military personnel.

Libya's heavily armed militias, with roots in the 2011 war against dictator Moammar Gadhafi, have proliferated since his overthrow. They have since undermined successive transitional governments and parliament.

Libyan security forces clashed in Benghazi last month with Ansar al-Shariah, a hard-line Islamist militia blamed for the consulate attack. Ansar al-Shariah faces a backlash from residents who have marched against it both in Benghazi and, in recent days, in its stronghold in the eastern city of Darna.

With frequent attacks on public figures and security officials, much of the lawlessness is blamed on the groups. But the government also relies on many of them to provide security in the absence of a functioning police force.