Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Waco

Austin-based pastor killed in Libya

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An Austin-based pastor and graduate of the University of Texas was shot and killed by unknown assailants as he was exercising Thursday in Benghazi, Libya.

According security official Ibrahim al-Sharaa, 33-year-old Ronnie Smith was jogging near the U.S. Consulate, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed by Islamic militants in September 2012, when he was attacked.

The security official said the 33-year-old taught chemistry at the city's International School, a Libyan-owned institute that follows an American curriculum.

Smith had previously worked as a teaching pastor at Austin Stone Community Church. While working at the church, he provided spiritual mentoring to students at the University of Texas, according to a member of the church’s missionary network. How long he worked at the local church is still unclear.

“Before moving to Benghazi, Ronnie was a member of the church staff at the Austin Stone. Ronnie, his wife Anita, and his son are dearly loved by our church family,” church spokesman Dave Barrett said. “Ronnie loved Libya and was dedicated to his students to help them aspire to their dreams. Ronnie’s greatest desire was for peace and prosperity in Libya and for the people of Libya to have the joy of knowing God through Christ.”

Smith was one of four people killed in Benghazi Thursday and whose bodies were taken to the Al-Galaa hospital, showing the dangers of a city that is home to numerous armed groups resisting the central government's authority. The other three killed were military personnel.

Early Thursday afternoon, the University of Texas released a statement on Smith's death, saying, "The university community is shocked and saddened by the death of Ronnie Smith in Benghazi. Ronnie was a proud Texas Ex who earned a master's degree in chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin in 2006. He was an enthusiastic and outgoing student. His death is a tragedy for the campus and our nation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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