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Libyan Officials Say Teacher From Texas Killed in Benghazi

Man survived by wife, young son

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    NEWSLETTERS

    @ISBchem/Twitter
    Photograph from the Twitter account @ISBchem.

    Unknown assailants in Libya have fatally shot an American teacher as the man was jogging in Benghazi on Thursday, just days before he was to return home to Texas for the holidays,

    A spokeswoman at the Al-Galaa hospital said the body of the Texan was brought to the hospital on Thursday with gunshot wounds.

    Officials have not revealed the man's name, but family friends in Austin and NBC News have identified the man as 33-year-old Ronnie Smith, a married man with a young son.

    A security official said Smith taught chemistry at the city's International School, a Libyan-owned institute that follows an American curriculum.  Friends in Austin said he was formerly a chemistry teacher at the University of Texas.

    Messages from students directed toward and in reference to a Twitter account believed to belong to Smith, show that he was beloved by his Libyan students.

    Adel Mansour, former principal of the International School in Benghazi and current head of board of school governors, said Smith was a "great guy" who loved the country in which he worked.

    "He loved being in Benghazi and he loved Libya and the kindness of its people," Mansour told NBC News. "He wanted to give everything for his kids and their education.

    "He was looking forward to going back and being with his family [to the U.S. for Christmas] but unfortunately now that's not going to happen."

    Mansour added: "I do hope that after this incident the Libyan government will actually stand up and take action against what is happening.

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

    Smith was one of four people killed in Benghazi Thursday 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.

    Officials said Smith was jogging near the U.S. Consulate, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed by Islamic militants in Sept., 2012.