U.S. Chemistry Teacher Killed in Libya While Jogging
An American chemistry teacher was shot and killed by gunmen in Bengzahi, Libya while jogging Thursday morning. While officials had not yet identified the man, NBC identified him as 33-year-old Ronnie Smith. State Department officials have also not yet identified who is responsible for the homicide.
"He was doing his morning exercise when gunmen just shot him. I don't know why. He was so sweet with everyone," said International School Bengzahi Director Adel al Mansouri.
Smith had moved to Libya 18 months ago, after teaching chemistry in Egypt. He was expecting to return to the U.S. for the holidays in a couple of days. Apparently, Smith was originally planning to leave this week to see his mom and the rest of his family, but chose to stick around for his students' midterms.
Smith, who described himself on his Twitter as "Libya's best friend," also seemed pretty popular with his students and frequently tweeted back and forth with them.
“He was the most amazing person, more like a best friend or a family member," a former student said. "After everything that happened in Libya, we were losing hope and he was the only one who was supporting us, motivating us, telling us that as long as we studied everything would be okay. He was the silver lining."
"He dedicated so much of his time for all his students,” the former student said. “He chose to come here and help us and risk his life.”
According to one security official, three other bodies, along with Smith's, were taken to Al-Galaa hospital this morning. Smith was the only civilian — the other three were military personnel.
Violence is common in Bengzahi, where Libyan state forces have been fighting against militia members from Ansar al-Sharia. Last September, the U.S. blamed the militant group for attacks at a U.S. diplomatic mission that killed the ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three more Americans at the embassy in Benghazi in 2012.
The country has been in turmoil since Muammar Gaddafi's ousting in 2011. Bengzahi was the central city in the revolution, and is broken up into sections that face continuing violence over control between the Libyan military and various militia groups and militants. However, without a functional police force, the state is dependent on these rogue factions to provide regional policing.