Tuesday marked the eleventh anniversary of al-Qaeda's terror attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. I was reminded of the fact when I left my office building for lunch and gazed up at the building I will forever to as the Sears Tower, no matter what company purchases the naming rights. I remember on 9/11 when speculation ran rampant that another plane was headed for Chicago. Fortunately the only other airliner hijacked that day crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, its passengers winning the first victory in The War on Terror by preventing the al-Qaeda terrorists from reaching their target in the nation's capitol.
As I stared across the river at the top of the building a third of a mile up in the air I wondered where al-Qaeda would strike next. I'm a pessimistic sort and I refused to believe that the terror network would not try to celebrate the occasion in some way, if only to prove the organization was not dead yet. But I was confident that whatever occurred would not touch me. I'm old enough to know better, right? A few hours later I saw this tweet from The Mittani:
Joys of #eveonline: one of my directors is stationed in Benghazi, goes 'oh shit gunfire' on jabber, then we see this: af.reuters.com/article/commod…Both the embassy in Cairo, Egypt and the consulate in Bengahazi were attacked. We learned a few hours later that Sean Smith, better known to the Eve Online community as Vile Rat, was killed, along with the ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and two security officers.
— The Mittani (@TheMittani) September 11, 2012
First reports blamed protestors angry at at a video that portrays the prophet Mohammed as "womanizer, pedophile and fraud" on YouTube. But slowly mainstream media outlets began reporting a different tale. At 6:24am yesterday, CBS News reported:
"According to al-Sharef, the angry mob stormed the consulate after the U.S. troops who responded fired rounds into the air to try and disperse the crowd. Al-Sharef said there had been threats that Islamic militants might try to take revenge for the death of al Qaeda's No. 2 commander Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in June, and he said the U.S. consulate should have been better protected.
"Confirming al-Libi's death for the first time in a video posted online Monday, al Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahri called on Muslim's in al-Libi's native Libya to take revenge for his death."
Yesterday afternoon, CNN identified the pro-al Qaeda Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades, as the prime suspects:
"A pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is the chief suspect in Tuesday's attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say."They also note that the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the death in June of a senior Libyan member of the terror group Abu Yahya al-Libi.The group suspected to be behind the assault -- the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades -- first surfaced in May, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on the International Red Cross office in Benghazi. The following month the group claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive device outside the U.S. Consulate, and later released a video of that attack."Noman Benotman, once a leading member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and now based at the Quilliam Foundation in London told CNN, 'An attack like this would likely have required preparation. This would not seem to be merely a protest which escalated.'"
"U.S. government officials said the Benghazi attack may have been planned in advance and there were indications that members of a militant faction calling itself Ansar al Sharia - which translates as Supporters of Islamic Law - may have been involved.
"They also said some reporting from the region suggested that members of Al-Qaeda's north Africa-based affiliate, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, may have been involved.
"'It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack,' one U.S. official said. However, some U.S. officials cautioned against assuming that the attacks were deliberately organized to coincide with the September 11 anniversary."
"So: Vile Rat, Sean Smith, my friend for over six years, both in real life and in internet spaceships, was the “State Department Official” killed in Benghazi by a mob of religious lunatics, who had been incited to violence on this September 11th by a movie that was apparently made sometime in July. Obviously, given the combined attacks in Egypt and in Libya, this was a coordinated act designed for maximum media exposure; rile up a mob, point them at an embassy or consulate on 9/11 in particular, aim for the press. Many were injured in these pointless, reprehensible acts, and one of my closest friends was killed as a result."The outpouring of grief was tremendous. Threads formed on the official Eve Online forums as well as on Kugutsumen. Null sec alliances renamed hundreds of stations in Vile Rat's honor. People started making tribute videos and graphics, like the one from SpaceMonkeys Alliance below.
I'm not about to try to write about Sean himself; I didn't know him. But a lot of people have written a lot of words about Sean over the last two days. While Eve's single shard makes New Eden a large world in gaming terms, compared to the real world it is just a good-sized town, if not a small city. A loss like this, especially if the attack was affiliated with al-Qaeda, hits hard. From reading all the posts a lot of people are feeling the same I way I am.
I'll end this post with a collection of links I found referring to Sean "Vile Rat" Smith. I understand an effort is underway to set up a fundraising effort for Sean's family. If I hear more I'll post the information.
UPDATE 17 September 2012: A page is now up on YouCaring soliciting donations for Sean's family.
Associated Press - Libya attack victim remembered by online gamers
Business Insider - US State Department Official Killed In Libya Was A Top Online Gamer
NBC News.com (blog) - Game community mourns death of American killed in Libya
NY Daily News - American diplomat Sean Smith, killed in Libya protests, is mourned by his EVE Online gaming community
Reuters - Libya attack victim was a key player in online game
The Sacramento Bee - Death of Sean Smith at Benghazi consulate brings reality to online gaming world
Voice of America - US Diplomat's Death Shakes Online Gaming World
Smithsonian.com - US Official Killed in Libya Mourned by Online Gaming Community
The Verge - 'EVE Online' players were first to learn of US official's death in Libya
Wired - Diplomat Killed in Libya Told Fellow Gamers: Hope I 'Don't Die Tonight'
Eurogamer - US official killed in Libya was a senior Eve Online player
Gameranx - Remembering Vile Rat, Legendary Diplomat
Kotaku - How Video Game Fans Mourn the Death of One of their Own, Slain in Libyan Attacks
Massively - Former EVE CSM member Vile Rat killed in attack on Libyan consulate
PC Gamer - EVE Online top player was US official killed in Libya
Ten Ton Hammer - Veteran EVE Player Killed in Libya Attacks
The Escapist - Senior EVE Online Community Member Killed in Libya Riot
Eve News Sites
TheMittani.com - RIP: Vile Rat
Eve News 24 - ex-CSM Member Vile Rat killed in Benghazi attacks
2nd Anomaly From The Left
A Missioneer in Eve
After time adrift under open stars
Bob "Starbeam Moonchild" From Marketing
Eve Online Pictures
From J Space to K Space
Gun Turret Diplomacy
Hans' Job: Delivering CSM Satisfaction
Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
Low Sec Lifestyle
The Skorpius Chronicles