U.S. teacher shot and killed in Libya

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BENGHAZI, Libya -- Relatively few Americans remained in this eastern Libyan city as street battles raged and Islamic militants made ever-bolder forays in recent weeks. But Ronald Thomas Smith II, a chemistry teacher at an English-language school, stayed on, planning, colleagues said, to return soon to the United States for Christmas.

Mr. Smith, 33, of Texas, was shot to death as he jogged in an affluent central neighborhood of Benghazi, not far from the U.S. Consulate where an attack in September 2012 killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Colleagues at the International School, which has an American-style curriculum, said they were told by school administrators that Mr. Smith had been shot multiple times as he was taking a run -- part of his regular routine, they said -- in the Fuweyhet district. There was no immediate claim of responsibility in the attack, and it was not known whether Mr. Smith was targeted as an American, as a Westerner or at random.

Students and friends reminisced about Mr. Smith on Twitter, describing a teacher who was devoted and irreverent.

Logan Gentry, a friend who said he talked to Mr. Smith the day before he died, said in an email that "when I read the student's memories of him on the #.MrSmithMemories, I hear his sarcastic, jovial voice. He joked with everyone, but always cared for them and looked for ways to serve them."

Mr. Smith arrived in Benghazi late last year and had a wife and young son. Their whereabouts after the shooting was not clear, and American diplomats refused to provide any family details or even confirm Mr. Smith's identity.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that Mr. Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi.

"We offer our condolences to the victim's family, friends and loved ones," Ms. Harf said. "We are in contact with the family and are providing all appropriate consular assistance."

Ms. Harf said the United States has an ongoing advisory for U.S. citizens against all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid and southern Libya. The U.S. also advises against any but essential travel to Tripoli, the capital, she said.

Libyan officials said three Libyan soldiers also died in or near the city Thursday. The escalating militia battles that have rocked the city and its environs since early last month are emblematic of the central government's weak authority. Authorities in Tripoli have tried to halt the fighting, but those efforts have been largely ineffective.

East of Benghazi, in Derna, jihadist groups have taken over in effect, and Prime Minister Ali Zidan is considering a military intervention, which residents have demanded.

In Benghazi, the militias sometimes target security forces, with assassinations a favored tactic.


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