BENGHAZI, Libya - Relatively few Americans remained in this eastern Libyan city as street battles raged and Islamic militants made ever-bolder forays in recent weeks. But Ronald Thomas Smith II, a chemistry teacher at an English-language school, stayed on, planning, colleagues said, to return soon to the United States for Christmas.
Smith, 33, of Texas, was shot to death as he jogged in an affluent central neighborhood of Benghazi, not far from the U.S. Consulate where an attack in September 2012 killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Colleagues at the International School, which has an American-style curriculum, said they were told by school administrators that Smith had been shot multiple times as he was taking a run - part of his regular routine, they said - in the Fuweyhet district. There was no immediate claim of responsibility in the attack, and it was not known whether Smith was targeted as an American, as a Westerner or at random.
Smith arrived in Benghazi late last year and had a wife and young son. Their whereabouts were not clear, and American diplomats refused to provide any family details or even confirm Smith's identity.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi.
"We offer our condolences to the victim's family, friends and loved ones," Harf said. "We are in contact with the family and are providing all appropriate consular assistance."
Harf said the United States has an advisory for U.S. citizens against all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid and southern Libya. The U.S. also advises against any but essential travel to Tripoli, the capital, she said.
Libyan officials said three Libyan soldiers also died in or near the city Thursday. The escalating militia battles that have rocked the city and its environs since early last month are emblematic of the central government's weak authority. Authorities in Tripoli have tried to halt the fighting, but those efforts have been largely ineffective.
In Benghazi, the militias sometimes target security forces, with assassinations a favored tactic. But the groups - many of them made up of former rebels who brought down and killed longtime Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi in 2011 - are locked in competition among themselves for influence and territory.