Abu Khatallah “didn’t light the fires or fire the mortars, but is just as guilty” for planning the attack, setting it in motion and getting others “to do his dirty work,” federal prosecutor John Crabb told jurors in his opening statement. But the defense ardently refuted Crabb’s claims that Abu Khatallah “hates Americans with a vengeance” and facilitated the attack that killed four Americans during its opening remarks on the first day of trial. Abu Khatallah faces 18 charges related to the deadly violence that began on September 11, 2012, including the murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists and destroying US property while causing death. During the attack, assailants armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades first blasted through the main diplomatic mission before setting it ablaze, according to 2014 court papers. Stevens and State Department information officer Sean Smith died there . A coordinated mortar assault on a nearby annex killed security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both CIA contractors and former US Navy SEALs.
“Ambassador J . Christopher Stevens choked to death by thick black smoke . Sean Smith choked to death by thick black smoke . Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were ‘blown apart by mortar fire,’ ” Crabb said while vividly describing the attack that took place more than five years ago.
“I knew we were under attack”
Special agent Scott Wickland, a regional officer with diplomatic security who was living at the mission, recalled the events of September 11, 2012 as the first witness to testify in the trial.
Wickland was visibly emotional as he described Stevens as “very personable” with a warm manner was “not normal” for an ambassador. Around 9:45 p.m . on September 11, Wickland said he heard chanting down the street from the mission and then calls of “Allah Akbar.”
As guards scrambled to put on their protective gear and get their guns, Wickland said went to notify Stevens — who had already gone to bed — of a possibly escalating security situation. Wickland then said he directed Stevens and IT official Sean Smith to a safe room in one of the compound’s villas. There was gunfire, explosions and “bloodcurdling screams” on the radio, according to Wickland, who told the jury, “I knew we were under attack.”
The doors of the villa were then blown open and attackers entered the compound armed with AK-47s and other assault rifles, he said. When the attackers could not blast open the gates of the safe room, they set the villa on fire, Wickland said. With smoke filling the safe room, Wickland told the jury that he tried to lead Stevens and Smith to the bathroom so they could get some air but quickly realized they were not behind him. He tried to feel around and yell for them but he couldn’t find them — searching until he was out of air and almost collapsed. As Wickland went outside to escape the smoke he said he was fired upon by grenades. He repeatedly entered the compound to search for Stevens and Smith until he was out of breath only to be met with a barrage of grenade fire each time he exited the compound. Unable to locate Stevens and Smith, Wickland told the jury that he said to himself “I’m going to search for them until I’m going to die.” Wickland then said he waited for a lull in the gunfire and climbed a ladder to the roof where he stayed alone for a very long time and continued to take fire — unable to make contact with anyone on the radio. Just when he thought everyone was dead, one of the guards, David Ubben, called Wickland on the radio and said “are you alive?
“I don’t know how many times I thought I was going to die, but this was a piece of hope that I was going to survive,” Wickland told the jury. Court adjourned for the day as Wickland was still on the stand and the prosecution is expected to resume his testimony on Tuesday.
Violent extremist or Libyan patriot?
Abu Khatallah emerged from years in prison under the regime of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to form an Islamist militia and later became associated with Ansar al-Sharia, a group US officials blamed for the 2012 attack. Believed to be in his 40s, Abu Khatallah became the face of the militant attack and a top target for the US after he cultivated a celebrity profile in its wake, meeting with journalists and granting interviews. On Monday, prosecutors highlighted evidence they said will show Abu Khatallah not only orchestrated efforts to gather weapons ahead of the attack but will also show he rushed the gates of the mission armed with an AK-47 rifle and fuel canisters which were used to set the building on fire. The prosecution ended its opening statements by reiterating that Abu Khatallah was motivated by his hate for Americans and concerns that the US mission in Libya served as a “spy nest” — a point that echoed claims made in pre-trial documents. “The defendant’s participation in the attack was motivated by his extremist ideology,” prosecutors said in the documents, which also alleged that Abu Khatallah “voiced concern and opposition to the presence of an American facility in Benghazi” days prior to the attack. However, the defense argued that Abu Khatallah was not a radical terrorist but rather a “Libyan patriot” who fought to free the country from Gadhafi. According to Robinson, Khatallah was at a friend’s house when he heard about the attack and “went to see what was going on.” He did not attempt to block people from going to the attack site but was only acting to try and protect those present from gunfire, Robinson said, adding that Abu Khatallah never went to the CIA annex and was at home when the mortars hit. The defense also discussed Abu Khatallah’s 12 days in isolation after he was captured during a secret raid in June 2014.
While he was interrogated aboard a Navy ship during transport from Libya to the US, the defense said Abu Khatallah made certain statements and blamed bad translation for his answers.
They also emphasized that he cooperated with interrogators without an attorney present.
While many organisations in the public sector are going in the right direction, more needs to be done to tackle cyber attacks and prevent breaches . Patching the network is not enough Cyber security is no longer just a matter of protecting data, but also preventing dangerous attacks, which could cost money and or potentially put lives at risk . The WannaCry ransomware attack affected more than 300,000 computers globally1, and heavily disrupted the operations of many major companies and institutions from a variety of sectors. However, one of the worst affected areas was the public sector specifically the NHS . The attack was so severe that hospitals and doctors surgeries from at least 16 health service organisations2 had to turn away patients and cancel appointments, seriously affecting patients wellbeing . The fact that the NHS bore the brunt of the ransomware attack shines a light on the vulnerabilities of the public sector. The threat of a breach cannot be taken lightly, and the need to bolster cyber defences is imperative . The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) recently warned that essential services organisations could face fines of up to 17m or 4%3 of global turnover separate to any fines from GDPR if they fail to protect themselves from cyber-attacks.
>See also: The growing cyber security threat to the UK education sector4 This further reinforces the need for organisations to improve their cybersecurity . The impact of cyber attacks has spurred the Government to act5 and bolster the sector s cyber security systems with a 21m investment, but the right steps must be taken to prevent data breaches altogether.
Criticisms of the NHS and the wider public sector have varied from not replacing old computer systems to not investing in protection from new threats . In the wake of WannaCry, the NHS has attempted to address this in signing a partnership between its digital arm and Microsoft, which will include updates and patches for all computers still using Windows XP. While updating infrastructure will help, more needs to be done to keep data truly safe . Updates and patches are not enough to cover the wide range of factors that cause breaches . One extremely important aspect of cybersecurity is training . If public sector organisations want to prevent attacks like ransomware, which are mostly caused by phishing, they need to ensure that staff have basic cyber-hygiene . This would mean knowing the basics of how to prevent a breach, how to spot potential attacks and taking responsibility for how they conduct themselves around data whether inside or outside of work, as well as understanding the implications of their actions on the organisation. >See also: The public sector and it s approach to the cyber threat landscape6 Despite numerous attacks on firms, this is something that is still neglected .
A recent survey7 of the FTSE 350, by the Government, showed that a shocking 68% of board members had not been trained to deal with cybersecurity incidents. Public sector firms are no exception . The consequences of staff not being cyber-literate is a leading cause of breaches in security, with recent research from CompTIA8 finding that 60% of UK businesses blame human error as a major contributor to security breaches . General carelessness and staff failing to follow policies are the primary contributors, which suggests the lack of knowledge and awareness amongst employees to protect data is a major concern across the board. The NHS therefore needs to expand its cybersecurity practices far beyond simple software updates and patches . It needs to train staff to ensure they can remain secure and avoid leaving data exposed . Organisations must ensure they have all the information to teach staff to stay vigilant against threats . Awareness and knowledge are the best tools to guard against malicious attacks. It is also vital that organisations hire certified IT and security staff to help regulate these processes .
The value of certified staff is clear to see, due to their up-to-date and versatile knowledge of systems, current and emerging technologies . The fact that a CompTIA report reveals that 89%9 of organisations believed that IT-certified individuals were more efficient than non-IT-certified individuals in similar job roles is a testament to their worth to any organisation. >See also: 7 cyber security threats to SMEs and how to secure against them10
The need for cyber security training must involve the entire IT team . It starts with the help desk and technical support personnel, the first line of defence against cyber threats . It extends to the cybersecurity analyst, who uses data analytics to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities so that resources can be allocated where they are most needed before an intrusion happens. While many organisations in the public sector are going in the right direction, more needs to be done to tackle cyber attacks and prevent breaches . Patching the network is not enough . The NHS needs to set an example by making sure that staff are cyber security trained and that IT staff are certified to demonstrate their capabilities . It is imperative that the public sector improves its cybersecurity to prevent attacks like WannaCry ever happening again.
- ^ 300,000 computers globally (www.telegraph.co.uk)
- ^ 16 health service organisations (edition.cnn.com)
- ^ 17m or 4% (www.bbc.co.uk)
- ^ The growing cyber security threat to the UK education sector (www.information-age.com)
- ^ spurred the Government to act (healthcare.governmentcomputing.com)
- ^ The public sector and it s approach to the cyber threat landscape (www.information-age.com)
- ^ survey (www.gov.uk)
- ^ research from CompTIA (www.comptia.org)
- ^ 89% (certification.comptia.org)
- ^ 7 cyber security threats to SMEs and how to secure against them (www.information-age.com)
- ^ CompTIA (www.comptia.org)
Police at scene of security alert in Irvinestown
A security alert is underway in Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/police-at-scene-of-security-alert-in-irvinestown-36097566.html
A security alert is underway in Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh. Police are currently in attendance at premises in the Lisnarick Road area of the town.
Drivers are advised local diversions are in place at Church Street and at the junction of Lisnarick Road and Tullylammy Road.
Belfast Telegraph Digital