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Briton, New Zealander found shot dead on Libyan beach

By Lindsay Isaac and Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
January 3, 2014 -- Updated 2045 GMT (0445 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: New Zealand ministry says one of its citizens who was visiting Libya was killed
  • NEW: Libya's foreign ministry says the two victims were shot dead
  • The two appeared to be having a picnic when they were killed, Sabratha Media Center says
  • The bodies were found in a remote area near a partially built resort

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Authorities on Friday identified a British man and a woman from New Zealand as the two foreigners killed in Libya and their bodies found on a beach west of Tripoli.

Libya's foreign ministry said they were discovered shot on Thursday in Mellitah, west of the city of Sabratha, according to a statement by the official Libyan News Agency.

"The foreign ministry ... is following up with great interest on the progress of the investigation into the killings," the statement said.

The British government confirmed one of them was a Briton, and New Zealand's foreign ministry said the other was one of its citizens.

Neither were identified and there was no further information about how or when they died.

"The exact circumstance of their deaths is not yet clear and will be subject to an investigation by the Libyan authorities," said the New Zealand ministry in a statement, adding that its slain national was visiting Libya.

The Sabratha Local Council -- the area's governing body -- also acknowledged the killings in a statement.

"The Sabratha Local Council and the residents of the area offer their deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and to the states of Britain and New Zealand, as this act is contrary to our morals and values of our religion," the council said.

The two foreigners had been reported missing and police were searching for them when their bodies were discovered, the Sabratha Media Center, a local activist news group, said.

It was not immediately clear from the media center how long they had been missing or when exactly they died.

Their bodies were found on Tallil Seyahi Beach about 50 miles (85 kilometers) west of Tripoli, added the group, which noted they had been killed.

An initial police investigation showed the two had been on a picnic in a somewhat remote area near a partially built resort.

A photo posted on the Sabratha Media Center Facebook page purports to show the man and woman, who are lying facedown in the sand. Near the bodies is a blanket that is spread out, with food and drinks strewn about. A backpack is nearby.

CNN could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the photo, which the Sabratha Media Center said it obtained and posted on Facebook.

The police investigation indicated tire marks in the area.

Investigators are looking for possible motives, officials said.

There has been a rise in crime in the area in recent weeks, including a Libyan man who was killed in a reported carjacking, according to the media center.

The beaches in and around Sabratha are among some of the most developed on Libya's western coastline. They were a popular destination for picnics and swimming among foreigners before the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

CNN's Sara Mazloumsaki, Greg Botelho and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

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