SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) _ Two 19-year-old American women were found shot to death near a Caribbean beach town in Costa Rica, security officials said Tuesday.

The bodies were found Monday along a highway near the town of Cahuita, about 90 miles east of San Jose, the capital, said Jesus Urena, a spokesman for the Public Security Ministry.

Costa Rican officials identified the victims as Emily Howell of Lexington, Ky., and Emily Eagen of Detroit.

The women were driving a sports utility vehicle when the attack occurred, said police spokeswoman Margarita Morales. The vehicle, which had been rented by an unidentified third person, was found burned Monday on a major highway just outside San Jose.

The officials said one had been shot twice in the head and the other three times in the back, and that one was nude and the other partially-nude. The officials did not say which victim suffered which wounds.

Credit cards, clothing and other belongings were found near the bodies, Urena said.

Scott Warren, dean of students at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, said Howell was a student at the college who had been in the Central American nation since January on a photography project. Eagen was a former student who was visiting her and had been in the country 15 days.

He said authorities were uncertain about the motivation for the attack. ``It appears to be a random, tragic incident.''

The Antioch student's roommate was also in Costa Rica but was elsewhere when the killings occurred, Warren said. She has since been reunited with her father.

A faculty member from Antioch visited the students last week and said they were fine, Warren said.

``It's a horrible loss and cause for mourning for all of us,'' Warren said. Of the current student who was slain, Warren said: ``She was a wonderful person, very warm, very caring ... She had a lot of friends.''

The U.S. Embassy said a consular official had gone to the area to discuss the case with local officials.

The area is part of Limon province, where five slayings have occurred so far this month. It includes a depressed banana industry and beaches popular with tourists.

Antioch, about 15 miles east of Dayton, is known for liberal social standards.