(Photo: Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)
An American chemistry teacher working abroad in Benghazi, Libya was shot and killed by gunmen Thursday during his routine jog near the U.S. Consulate, security sources in the country confirmed Thursday. The man died one week before he was supposed to travel back to his native state of Texas to celebrate Christmas with his wife and young son.
Security official Ibrahim al-Sharaa said that it is unclear why the Texas-native chemistry teacher working at Libya's International School Benghazi was shot, although he was doing his regular exercise routine close to the U.S. Consulate, where Islamic militants attacked and killed American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last September. The city's International School is a government-owned institution that follows American standards for curriculum, according to the Association Press.
"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. Libya's special forces have reportedly been struggling to contain Islamic extremists in the country, especially in Benghazi. Members of the militant Ansar al-Sharia group reportedly inhabit the city, and this same group is the one the U.S. blames for the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate.
Fadyah al-Burghathi, spokeswoman for the Al-Galaa hospital, confirmed to reporters that the body of a man from Texas was brought to the hospital Thursday with gunshot wounds. The teacher had reportedly been shot around lunchtime near his home.
Peter Hodge, the principal of the International School Benghazi, told NBC News that the teacher was expected to be returning home to his wife and young son in time for Christmas next week. "He was very much loved," Hodge said. The man had been working at the school for the past 18 months.
Libya has remained unstable since the ousting of Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, with interim security forces struggling to contain the Islamic militants and former rebels who continue to run their own checkpoints in Benghazi and participate in common suicide bombings.
Just last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Libyans to put aside their differences and maintain peace, telling them to "break the cycle of violence through respectful dialogue and reconciliation." Kerry's statement was made in response to deadly clashes between militiamen and armed residents in the city of Tripoli that left 42 dead.
No one has taken responsibility for the Thursday morning shooting.