Libya violence: US teacher shot dead in Benghazi

Students stand outside the Benghazi International School
Image caption The international school in Benghazi follows an English curriculum

An American teacher has been shot dead in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, local officials say.

Ronnie Smith, who is reported to be from Texas, taught chemistry at the international school in the city.

The 33-year-old was gunned down earlier on Thursday as he was jogging in the Fweihat district, a popular residential area in the city.

No group has said it carried out the attack. There was no formal statement from the US embassy in Libya.

However, in a tweet the US ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones, said her heart went out "to the family of the American school teacher".

"Libya's enemies will not succeed in driving away her friends," she wrote in a second post.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says Mr Smith was one of the few foreign citizens living in Benghazi.

For more than a year, many foreign governments have advised against all travel to Benghazi by their nationals, our correspondent says.

The warnings followed an attack on the US consulate in September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Hardline Islamist groups have since been blamed for that attack but no one has been convicted.

'So sweet'

The international school in Benghazi is a Libyan-owned institute that follows an English curriculum.

"He was doing his morning exercise when gunmen just shot him. I don't know why. He was so sweet with everyone," Adel al Mansouri, director at the school, told Reuters.

Benghazi has seen the rise of several extremist militia groups operating in the city since the civil war in 2011 that toppled the longstanding leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Residents blame these groups for the almost daily assassinations and frequent bombings targeting the army and police, our correspondent says.

Earlier on Thursday, three Libyan soldiers were assassinated in the city.

Last week, nine people died in clashes between the Libyan army and an Islamist militia, Ansar al-Sharia.

Militias took part in the uprising that led to the fall of Col Gaddafi but have been told by the interim government to disband or join the army by the end of the year.

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