On September 11-12, 2012, four American citizens were murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. State Department staffer Sean Smith, and Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed during a 13-hour attack on the U.S. consulate.
This week, 5 years after the attack, the Benghazi trials began. On Monday, federal prosecutors said that the alleged Benghazi mastermind, Ahmed Abu Khattala, “hates America with a vengeance.”
Khattala is facing murder charges, along with 17 other federal charges. He was taken into custody by U.S. Special Forces in Libya in 2014 and was brought to the U.S. after a 13-day trip on a Navy ship.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the prosecuting attorneys believe that he was the ultimate mastermind behind the attack. In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb described the brutality of Khattala’s actions.
He said, “Ambassador Christopher Stevens was choked to death by thick black smoke…Glen Doherty was blown apart by a motor attack. Why? Because they were Americans. And that defendant, right there, [referring to Khattala] hates America with a vengeance.”
Khatalla’s defense lawyers claimed that he was a “Libyan patriot” and that he was simply a “soft target.” They said that he was innocent and simply got blamed for the attacks.
Throughout the trial, several witnesses and influential voices have been called to the stand. One witness was Diplomatic Security Special Agent Scott Wickland, who was Christopher Stevens’ bodyguard.
In his testimony, Wickland recalled Stevens’ final words. He said that the ambassador knew that he was going to die, though he still had the perseverance to overcome.
Stevens told Wickland, “When I die, you need to pick up my gun and keep fighting.”
The Independent Journal Review reported on Wickland’s testimony.
Wickland reportedly admitted that he did not know if he would survive the attack. He said that he could recount the moment that he lost Stevens and U.S. State Department staffer Sean Smith.
He said that he saw the two crawling behind him as they all searched for a bedroom with a window for an escape route. Wickland said that he made it out of the window, but was alone.
After exiting and pulling the ladder up, Wickland said, “That’s when I knew [Stevens and Smith] were dead.”
Khatalla’s fate will be decided by 15 jurors, with 3 alternates. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper told the jurors that they are the “ultimate deciders of fact in this case.”
We will continue to update here as the trial continues. For more breaking news, read our latest article about the restaurant owner who got a big surprise after refusing to show NFL games.