White House press secretary Jay Carney said that they’re leaving the investigation of an American teacher shot in Benghazi up to the Libyans.
The Libya Herald reported that chemistry teacher Ronnie Smith, 33, was running on Dubai Street in Benghazi’s Digadosta district when he was shot multiple times. According to witnesses, Smith was approached by a black SUV that “drove up to him and retreated several times before shots were fired from the vehicle.”
Smith had lived in Benghazi for 13 months with his wife and their 2-year old while teaching at Benghazi International School. His wife had flown back to America a few weeks ago and Smith was due to join them in Texas for Christmas, the Herald reported.
“The State Department has issued a travel warning that’s been in place for sometime about — warning Americans about the dangers of traveling in Libya. You know, so for greater detail on how those assessments are made and why, I would refer you to the State Department,” Carney told reporters at the daily briefing.
“We do expect the Libyan government to investigate this. At this point, we don’t have very much information to share about who is responsible or how it happened or why,” he added. “But we certainly do expect the Libyans to investigate.”
The Herald reported that authorities were trying to ascertain whether the motive was terrorism or robbery. Libyan officials have been mounting a concerted offensive against militants in recent weeks, with escalated fighting in Benghazi a couple weeks ago in which residents were even offering guns and ammo to the military to help them drive out terrorist groups.
In a statement posted over the weekend, American al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn urged Libyans to conduct attacks in revenge for the seizure of Abu Anas al-Libi.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that Smith was killed.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends and loved ones. We are in contact with the family and are providing all appropriate consular assistance,” she said. “Out of the respect for the privacy of those affected, I don’t have a lot of further details at this time. For questions on the investigation, of course, we’d refer everyone to the Libyan authorities.”
“…As everyone knows, there are pretty severe travel warnings in effect for Libya, particularly Benghazi. But we don’t keep track of American citizens in that way, obviously, operating overseas.”
Harf said the State Department doesn’t have an idea of how many Americans might be living in Benghazi.
“Again, our travel warning is very explicit in advising against all travel to this area. That’s sort of what we can do, is advise our citizens, and then it’s up to people individually to make decisions. I just don’t have any way to characterize it,” she said. “…I’d, in terms of an investigation, refer you to the Libyan authorities. We are working with those authorities to ascertain the facts related to the case, which, again, there are a lot of unknowns right now, because this tragedy occurred just recently today. So we’ll update folks as we get more.”
Meanwhile, Libyans reached out on Twitter to console Smith’s family and each other.
The main thing about Mr.Smith was he was the only one who didnt give up on us. Its time we dont give up on us either.
— Rahman Bader (@RahmanBader) December 5, 2013
#MrSmithMemories “sir, they tore my favorite sweater” “they did you a favor, you looked like a sheep on Eid”
— yomna ❁ (@yzentani) December 5, 2013
#MrSmithMemories spending all of our lunch break talking about breaking bad
— nuria (@libyanduchess) December 5, 2013
I asked him once why did you name your kid Hosea he said so when he grows up and asks for sim thin’ I’d say no way Hosea.Lol #ThankYouSmith
— مــــو المصــــري (@moe_almasri) December 5, 2013
10 days ago.
— LibyanTweep (@LibyanTweep) December 5, 2013