Libya politics

Libyans protest a months-long militia blockade of vital oil terminals during a Dec. 13 demonstration in the capital, Tripoli. The bodies of two foreign teachers, one from Britain and one from New Zealand, were found Thursday at one of the gas facilities subject to the blockade, near the western coastal town of Sabratha. No motive for the shooting deaths was immediately apparent, authorities said. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP/Getty Images / January 2, 2014)

The bodies of a British man and a New Zealand woman shot to death near an oil terminal in western Libya were discovered Thursday by government troops, news agencies in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, reported.

Both victims were believed to have been working in the area as teachers, the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse quoted unnamed government officials as saying.

The bodies, bearing bullet wounds, were discovered by Libyan troops patrolling the area around the Mellitah Oil and Gas complex near Sabratha, about 60 miles west of Tripoli, the news reports said.

On Dec. 5, an American teaching at an English-language university in Benghazi was shot to death while jogging. Ronnie Smith, a 33-year-old chemistry teacher from Texas, had planned to return home later in the month for the holidays, friends and family said in social media tributes to him.

Four U.S. security officers from the embassy in Tripoli were detained by Libyan soldiers a week ago, also in the Sabratha area, and held for questioning for several hours before being released unharmed. The officers said they had been in the area to check a potential evacuation route from the U.S. mission in the capital.

J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya after the October 2011 ouster and killing of longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi, was killed along with three other Americans at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, after the mission was overrun by a mob.

Neither of the victims whose bodies were found Thursday has been identified, according to the British Foreign Office and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both offices said they were pressing Libyan authorities for further information about the slayings.

The bodies were found slumped next to their packed suitcases, the news agencies said, quoting Libyan officials. The bags' contents were undisturbed, and the officials said they had no immediate clues as to the motive for the killings.

Melittah's oil and gas terminals have been idled for months because of antigovernment militiamen's battle with rival factions for control of Libya's lucrative energy assets, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported in its article about the latest teacher killings.

The State Department last month issued a travel advisory for Libya, urging Americans to avoid the country "because of ongoing instability and violence."

Twitter: @cjwilliamslat

carol.williams@latimes.com