Security increased for foreigners in eastern Libya

Security for foreign instructors has been increased after an American teacher was shot to death while jogging in Benghazi, amid fears that the death was not an isolated attack but rather one of an increasing number of targeted killings by Islamic militants or other gunmen with a strong presence in the volatile eastern Libyan city.

PTI| Last Updated: Dec 07, 2013, 10:33 AM IST

Tripoli: Security for foreign instructors has been increased after an American teacher was shot to death while jogging in Benghazi, amid fears that the death was not an isolated attack but rather one of an increasing number of targeted killings by Islamic militants or other gunmen with a strong presence in the volatile eastern Libyan city.

Ronald Thomas Smith II`s body was found Thursday near the residential compound that housed him and other Benghazi International School teachers in an upscale neighborhood.

He had been at school in the morning but went home to change his clothes and go jogging at midday, according to the school`s director Adel al-Mansouri.

The area is also the site of the US diplomatic mission, where the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed last year.

The United States, viewed by many Libyans as a protector who led NATO airstrikes that helped rebels oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, has nonetheless become an enemy to Islamic militants who have flourished in the security vacuum, particularly in eastern Libya.

Five days before Smith`s killing, al-Qaida`s American spokesman Adam Gadahn called upon Libyans to attack US interests everywhere as revenge for the abduction by US forces of an al Qaeda suspect off the streets of Tripoli in October.

The school is located nearly 10 kilometres (six miles) outside the city and has about 600 students. School officials declined to give a breakdown about the number of Americans and other foreigners at the school for security reasons.

Smith, 33, who graduated in 2006 from the University of Texas in Austin with a master`s degree in chemistry, moved to Benghazi with his wife, Anita, and young son a year and a half ago. His wife and son had gone home for Christmas, but he stayed behind to help students with final exams for the semester.

During his years in Texas, he was active in the Austin Stone Community Church, fulfilling what friends said was Smith`s strong Christian beliefs.

Dozens of Egyptian Coptic Christians and others including South African, Swedish and American nationals have been detained by militias over accusations of spreading Christianity.

In one incident in March, a Coptic Christian died, reportedly under torture, while held over accusations of proselytizing.

Spreading Christianity is a crime in the predominantly Muslim North African county.

The United States called on Libya to investigate Smith`s death. Libya`s Foreign Ministry said in statement that it was launching a probe, but authorities could not be reached for comment about suspects or other details.