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American teacher shot dead in Libya's Benghazi

By Esam Mohamed

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:48 a.m. HST, Dec 05, 2013

TRIPOLI, Libya » An American teacher was shot to death as he was jogging in Benghazi today, highlighting persistently tenuous security in the eastern Libyan city where the U.S. ambassador was killed last year.

There were no credible claims of responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on Islamic militants active in Benghazi. It came five days after al-Qaida's American spokesman called upon Libyans to attack U.S. interests everywhere as revenge for U.S. special forces snatching an al-Qaida suspect off the streets of Tripoli in October and whisking him out of the country.

The United States called on the Libyan government to "thoroughly investigate" the death of the American. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation.

The U.S. State Department identified the teacher as Ronald Thomas Smith II. The State Department did not provide Smith's hometown, and it was not possible to immediately confirm a statement from a Libyan official that he was from Texas. The University of Texas in Austin said he graduated from the school in 2006 with a master's degree in chemistry.

Smith taught chemistry at Benghazi's city's International School, a Libyan-owned institute that follows a British curriculum.

The school posted condolences on its Facebook page. "He was a much loved teacher who supported students in their learning and always had time to help when asked," it said. "Ronnie was a professional who gave his time freely and without question. We do not understand why this has happened and it is extremely difficult for his students and his colleagues to accept."

A Libyan security official, Ibrahim al-Sharaa, said Smith was shot while jogging near the compound where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed by Islamic militants in September 2012.

Libyan security forces clashed in Benghazi last month with Ansar al-Shariah, a hard-line Islamist militia blamed for the attack on the diplomatic mission. 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.

Smith was one of four people killed in Benghazi today, showing the dangers of a city that is home to numerous armed groups resisting the central government's authority. The three others 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 undermined successive transitional governments and parliament.

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.

In an audio speech posted on militant websites late Saturday, al-Qaida's American spokesman, Adam Gadahn, called the U.S.'s kidnapping of an al-Qaida suspect from Libya a crime of piracy and urged Libyans to attack U.S. interests.

Gadahn, a former Osama bin Laden spokesman, said the suspect, Abu Anas al-Libi, had no role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa because he had left al-Qaida and formed a new group.

After seizing al-Libi in Tripoli, American special forces detained him on a U.S. warship before bringing him to the U.S. to stand trial.

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thepartyfirst wrote:
As Hillary Clinton would say, "What does it matter?"
on December 5,2013 | 07:19AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Motive for the killing: The outrageous parody of Islam by the TV series South Park or something like that. I'm sure the White House will come up with something even better.
on December 5,2013 | 07:59AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Can we just blame Obama folks. Ok, let's do it. Don't Texans carry guns?
on December 5,2013 | 08:11AM
pcman wrote:
As I have said many ties in the past, our country's ability to protect Americans who live, work, teach, travel, trade, learn, serve in the US State and Defense Dept, etc., in foreign countries re less than it was just our years ago because of the reduction of military funding since Obama took over. Killings on military installations in the US have also increased, reflecting the military's inability to defend US civilians at home. Countries like China, Russia, North Korea and Cuba are disregarding US and international laws and agreements.
on December 5,2013 | 08:36AM
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