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Published: Saturday December 21, 2013 MYT 3:35:02 PM
Updated: Saturday December 21, 2013 MYT 3:35:55 PM

Wife of U.S. teacher killed in Libya says she forgives gunmen

(Reuters) - The widow of an American teacher shot dead by gunmen in Libya two weeks ago said on Friday that she forgave the men who attacked her husband, whom she described as a devout Christian.

Ronnie Smith was gunned down on December 5 as he was exercising in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi where he had worked as a chemistry teacher for a year and a half, security sources and school officials said. It has not been clear who was responsible for the attack.

"I just envision the black Jeep driving up to him and I don't know their faces," Anita Smith, her voice quivering with emotion, told CNN in an interview on Friday.

"I just really want them to know that I do love them and I forgive them," she said, adding Ronnie would want the same.

Smith was described by friends and students at the international school in the eastern Libyan city as caring and helpful.

Libya's fragile government has struggled to contain former fighters and militants who, two years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, are challenging a state that is still building up a national army with Western aid.

In the CNN interview, Anita Smith cast her husband's purpose in the North African country in religious terms.

"I just want them to know that God loves them and can forgive them for this ... I don't know them. That's how I honestly feel," she said.

"What I want people to know about him ... he wanted to shine the light and the love of Jesus to the Libyan people ... he really did," she said.

Smith attended Woods-Tower High School in the Detroit area of the U.S. state of Michigan. He earned a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Texas in 2006 and belonged to a church in Austin, Texas.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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