Crime Files Network

Archive for August, 2014

Brandon Peter Macgowan has been found guilty of the murders of couple Cindy Masonwells and Scott Maitland in 2012.image

Brandon Peter Macgowan has been found guilty of the murders of couple Cindy Masonwells and Scott Maitland in 2012.

BRANDON Peter MacGowan has been jailed for 30 years without parole after being found guilty of the murders of couple Cindy Masonwells and Scott Maitland in 2012.

A jury took just over two hours to decide the fate of the former mechanic.

The trial concluded yesterday after eight days of evidence.

Earlier story on the murder  below…

Mount Isa couple murdered ….Qld Australia

TRAGEDY struck the community for a second time in 2012 when a Mount Isa couple was reported missing and later found to have been murdered.

Scott Maitland and Cindy Masonwells were last seen in Cairns collecting their newly-restored Holden panel ban from a workshop on July 5.

Friends and family grew worried for the pair when they could not be contacted and police detectives began searching.

Alarms were raised by friends and family when the mother of Mr Maitland’s daughter and Mr Maitland’s mother were unable to contact either of the pair.

Police detectives began searching and a Facebook page was created to find the couple.


The bodies of the two were still missing 10 days after being reported missing but a man appeared in court on the eleventh day charged with their murder.

Brandon McGowan was remanded in custody until September after he did not appear in court nor enter a plea.

Bodies had still not been found by late July but police said the couple was known to Mr McGowan.

Extra police presence in Cairns, totalling 50 officers on the case led to two bodies being found on July 18 in steep, dense rainforest at Kanimbla.

Police later confirmed the bodies found were those of Mr Maitland and Ms Masonwells.

McGowan was alleged to have acted alone in the murder.

McGowan had his case adjourned in early September when he did not appear in court.

His case was adjourned to a committal call-over on October 3 but no further information has been released regarding the case.


 illegal gambling online image

Criminal past … Taiwanese businessman Shih Chia-chin had built up a fortune worth tens of millions of US dollars through illegal gambling online. This was the second known attempt to kidnap the millionaire. 

Taipei: A Taiwan businessman who reportedly accumulated a fortune worth tens of millions of US dollars through illegal gambling has been murdered by kidnappers including his chauffeur in a case that rocked the island.

Shih Chia-chin was picked up by chauffeur Hsieh Yuan-hsin upon his return to the northern airport of Taoyuan on August 18.

Three hours later the accountant of Shih’s company received a phone call from kidnappers demanding a ransom of $Tw50 million ($1.84 million).

body of Shih Chia-chin was discovered in a ditch in a remote area of the southern city of Tainan image

The body of Shih Chia-chin was discovered in a ditch in a remote area of the southern city of Tainan. 

After negotiating with the kidnappers, Shih’s family wired $Tw30 million ($1.07 million) to three designated bank accounts and alerted police, according to a statement from police in the central city of Taichung.

It said Hsieh tried to withdraw the ransom but gave up and fled after he was asked by a bank clerk to show his ID.

Prosecutors issued a warrant barring Hsieh from leaving Taiwan. But about four hours later the suspect managed to board a flight for Thailand with a fake passport, police said.

Shih’s body was found on Sunday evening in a ditch in a remote area of the southern city of Tainan.

Police said at least two other people were involved in the kidnap

Citing police sources, the United Daily News said it was suspected there could have been a mastermind behind Hsieh, who has no criminal record.

It said the ransom might not have been the main purpose of the abduction.

Local media said Shih had kept a low profile since he survived a kidnapping attempt four years ago.

Shih was sentenced to an 18-month suspended prison term after his internet gambling ring was cracked nine years ago, the News said, adding that he had built up a fortune worth billions of Taiwan dollars.



Convicted neurosurgeon Suresh Nair during his police interview image

Convicted neurosurgeon Suresh Nair during his police interview. Photo: Supplied

A Sydney neurosurgeon jailed over the cocaine-related deaths of two sex workers has been deported from Australia.

Fairfax Media revealed in June that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison had instigated moves aimed at sending Suresh Nair back to his native Malaysia once he was freed on parole, after serving four years for manslaughter and two counts of supplying cocaine. The deportation, which occurred on Tuesday, was made possible because Nair – an Australian resident of more than 30 years – never became an official citizen in that time.

The move follows a joint Fairfax-ABC Four Corners investigation that exposed chronic failings within the NSW health regulatory system, allowing Nair to continue performing delicate brain and spinal prcoedures while his life was spiralling out of control due to a chronic cocaine addiction.

The case of Suresh Nair image

In 2009, two sex workers died in separate overdose incidents at his luxury apartment. In the nine months between those deaths, he spent more than $140,000 on sex and drugs inside Sydney brothel Liaisons while keeping up appearances at both the Nepean private and Nepean public hospitals.

As a result of the Fairfax ABC-Four Corners investigation, the NSW Government has announced it will change laws to improve transparency and communication surrounding impaired doctors.

The reforms also mean patients will never again be denied access to the findings of investigations into their own botched operations.

The dual investigation also convinced Immigration Minister Scott Morrison that Nair’s residency status should be revoked. In a statement today, he said: “I take very seriously my role in protecting the Australian community from the risk of harm by non-citizens who engage in criminal conduct.”


TWO TEENAGE SISTERS in rural India have been gang raped and killed by attackers who then hung their bodies from a mango tree.

Two of the four men arrested so far are police officers.

Villagers found the girls’ bodies hanging from the tree early yesterday, hours after they disappeared from fields near their home in Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state, police Superintendent Atul Saxena said.

india-deadly-gang-rape-girls hung from tree image

Lack of evidence in India gang rape

Five suspects to be freed in the rape and murder of two teens found hanging in a tree, after a forensic report appeared to contradict earlier claims the girls had been raped.

New Delhi: Indian investigators say they will not charge five men detained earlier this year on suspicion of raping and murdering two teenage girls in a case that sparked global outrage.

The cousins, aged 14 and 15, were found hanging from a tree in an impoverished village in northern Uttar Pradesh state in May.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s top investigative agency, said it would not “as yet” file charges against the men, citing a lack of evidence, but did not rule out future charges.

Indian demonstrator holds a placard in honour of a physiotherapy student who was gang-raped and murdered image

An Indian demonstrator holds a placard in honour of a physiotherapy student who was gang-raped and murdered at a protest to mark the one-year anniversary of her death. Photo: AFP

The men are expected to be released on Friday after 90 days in detention, the maximum time that a person can be held without being charged in India.

“Based on our investigations so far, we are not going to file the charge-sheet at this stage. However, no one has been given a clean chit as yet,” CBI spokeswoman Kanchan Prasad told AFP.

The girls were reported at the time to have been gang-raped and murdered after going into the fields to relieve themselves because their homes, like most in their village in Badaun district, lacked toilets.

The attack sparked public outrage after the family complained of police apathy towards them because they came from a lower caste.

Media reports say the CBI’s decision was based on forensic tests that had ruled out sexual assault in the case.

India brought in tougher rape laws last year for crimes against women after the fatal gang-rape of a physiotherapy student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012.



The former rapper left his family home in an affluent west London suburb last year to fight in the civil war in Syria.

In early August he tweeted a photo of himself wearing military camouflage and a black hood, while holding a severed head in his left hand.

British SAS forces are hunting Foley’s killer, using a range of high-tech equipment to track him down and potentially free other hostages.

Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary who raps under the name Lyricist Jinn image

MURDER SUSPECT Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary who raps under the name Lyricist Jinn.

Bary is the son of an Egyptian-born militant who is awaiting trial on terrorism charges in Manhattan, due to his alleged involvement in the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Before leaving the family home to fight in Syria, Bary was an aspiring rapper known as L Jinny whose music was played on one of Britain’s most popular radio stations, BBC Radio 1.

The Mail on Sunday is reporting that a “significant force” of SAS personnel has been deployed to northern Iraq over the past two days, joining local units fighting the Islamic State. They have fanned out into four-man teams, accompanying Iraqi and Kurdish troops in an effort to find British jihadists.

The Sunday Times reports that Bary is the key focus of the manhunt. He is one of the British jihadists referred to by former hostages as the Beatles because of their British accents. The two others were called “George” and “Ringo”.

The two other Britons suspected of involvement in the crime are Aine Davis, a former drug dealer who converted to Islam, and Razul Islam, who is believed to have joined the terrorist group that murdered Foley.

Recordings of his songs will prove vital to the investigating team, with experts using voice recognition technology to match his voice with that of the man who brutally decapitated Mr Foley.

Bary made a number of music videos for his songs, with titles such as Flying High, Dreamer and Overdose.

It is believed he was indoctrinated by an Islamic preacher named Anjem Choudary who persuaded him to join the fight in Syria.

Murdered: American journalist James Foley.



Foley was a ‘martyr for freedom’

The family of American journalist James Foley who was beheaded by Islamic militants says they are haunted by his manner of death.

foleys beheaded body on ground image

The purpose of the horrific video of the beheading of US photojournalist James Foley seems straightforward – to terrify the US into halting its aerial bombardment of the militant group.

But what appears to be a barbaric and blood-soaked ransom note to force a US withdrawal has an entirely different objective, say former national security operatives and terrorism experts.

That is, to generate enough public outrage so the US and its allies expand their military campaign in Iraq and Syria to include ground forces.

James Foley reported in the Middle East for five years image

James Foley: His brutal murder serves as a barbaric and blood-soaked ransom note. Photo: AP

Released by terrorist group Islamic State on Wednesday, it begins with footage of US President Barack Obama announcing air strikes on Iraq before Foley, on his knees in the desert and reciting scripted remarks, blames the US government for his impending death.

A hooded man with a British accent castigates Obama and the Muslim deaths wrought by the air strikes then murders Foley.

The video ends with another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, hauled before the camera with the final words – “the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision”.

“What’s happening is they are trying to get Western intervention in Iraq and Syria,” says Clarke Jones, a former national security operative specialising in counterterrorism now with the Australian National University.

“That would enable them to develop a new and powerful narrative of Western oppression of Muslims that would help them attract a new wave of recruits.”

Renowned Norwegian terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer agrees, questioning whether the attack on the Yazidis, raids into Kurdistan and the beheading of Foley could all be a “deliberate provocation strategy”.

“ISIS seems to be doing everything it can (short of attacks on the West) to draw the US into conflict,” he tweeted.

An angry West suits Islamic State, says Monash University terrorism expert Greg Barton. Hostility to Muslims feeds into their narrative of belittled Muslims persecuted by non-believers. It helps recruiting among their target audience and, at the same time, puts pressure on Western governments to act.

“One of the calculations they have to make is whether the public in the West is ready to back [a bigger military operation in Iraq and Syria],” he said. “An angry public is more likely to call upon their governments to do something drastic.”

The dramatic last moments when the beheading of Sotloff is threatened are chilling considering some 20 journalists have – like Foley and Sotloff – been kidnapped in Syria, many by Islamic State.

A procession of videoed executions could put immense pressure on the West to act with a larger military campaign.

Islamic State are skilled propagandists and a social media powerhouse, using the medium to distribute its message widely and cheaply, while bringing a new dimension to jihad – the intimate experiences and the personalities of the fighters on the ground.

The video is a multi-camera, high-definition production that employs careful editing and scripting.

For more than a decade, grisly videos has been steadily released by militants. They became so ubiquitous that most media ignored them.

But Islamic State and its cadres have taken the genre to a new level of horror.

The images of the children of Australian Khaled Sharrouf holding decapitated heads and the video of an Iraqi police chief being beheaded – which was tweeted during the World Cup with the comment “This is our ball … it is made of skin” – are just two macabre examples among many.

Whether Islamic State’s strategy is a smart is highly debatable. The brutality of its predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq led to communities and tribal leaders that had previously supported the terrorist organisation siding with the US and Iraqi government.

Given the core Islamic State fighters are foreigners, many of them behaving abominably, it is hard to see how the militants – for all their recent military successes – can sustain support among the people they have subjugated.


A Yazidi Iraqi woman sits with her children at the Bajid Kandala camp near the Tigris River in Kurdistan after fleeing advances by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq image

A Yazidi Iraqi woman sits with her children at the Bajid Kandala camp near the Tigris River in Kurdistan after fleeing advances by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq. Photo: AFP

When Islamic State militants stormed into a northern Iraqi village and ordered everyone to convert to Islam or die only one person refused. But that did not satisfy the Sunni insurgents who are even more hardline than al Qaeda.

The militants, who have seized much of northern Iraq since arriving from Syria in June, wasted no time after the village’s leader, or sheikh, stood up for his ancient Yazidi faith.

Khalof Khodede, an unemployed father of three who escaped with his life, recalled how 80 men in the village of Kocho were killed and all the women and girls were kidnapped.

An Iraqi cleric from the Yazidi religious minority sits in the Lalish temple - which is situated in the Shikhan Mountains in Kurdistan - where many displaced Yazidis have found refuge image

An Iraqi cleric from the Yazidi religious minority sits in the Lalish temple – which is situated in the Shikhan Mountains in Kurdistan – where many displaced Yazidis have found refuge. Photo: AFP

His account, one of the first eyewitness reports of last Friday’s killings, could not be independently verified but other Yazidis and Iraqi officials have given details of Islamic State’s attack on the village.

“First they wanted us all to convert to Islam and we said yes just to save our lives. We were all very afraid,” said Khodede from a hospital bed in the town of Dohuk in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Dohuk is now home to thousands of refugees from Iraq’s minority Yazidi community that has paid the heaviest price for Islamic State’s ambition to redraw the map of the Middle East

This Islamic State propaganda image shows the jihadists operating in Iraq in March image

This Islamic State propaganda image shows the jihadists operating in Iraq in March. Photo: AFP

“Then our sheikh said ‘I won’t convert to Islam’. And then they gathered us inside the village school,” he said.

The men were taken to the first floor and the women to the second after the villagers’ money and gold jewelry were seized, probably to fund the group made up of Iraqis and other Arabs as well as foreign fighters.

Then the Yazidis were loaded onto minibuses in groups of 10 to 20 and transported outside the village after being told they would be taken to Sinjar, the ancient homeland of the sect

Peshmerga fighters guard a position against Islamic State (IS) militants 20 kilometres east of Mosul image

Peshmerga fighters guard a position against Islamic State (IS) militants 20 kilometres east of Mosul. Photo: AFP

The vehicles stopped abruptly and the militants opened fire without warning. “They started shooting at us randomly. They had heavy guns like machine guns. I was hit in my leg and on my pelvis,” said Khodede, showing where he had been wounded.

The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism who are part of Iraq’s Kurdish community, are not strangers to oppression.

Oppression on a new level

Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein’s troops tried to crush the Kurds. Some were taken away by the executed former dictator’s intelligence agents.

But nothing could have prepared them for the wrath of the Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria it controls.

To survive, Khodede had to hide under the dead bodies of friends and neighbours, people who he had practiced the mysterious Yazidi faith with for a lifetime – beliefs that Islamic State fighters condemn as “devil worship”.

After trying to stay motionless for about an hour, Khodede saw Kurdish fighters in the distance, peering through gaps in the bodies.

They were not Iraqi Kurdish fighters who had held towns and villages in the north for years after the fall of Saddam in 2003.

The Kurdish fighters had come from Syria after hearing that fellow Kurds were being routed in neighbouring Iraq by Islamic State militants who seized several towns, a fifth oilfield, as well as the country’s dam for some time in recent weeks.

Like many Yazidis, Khodede felt abandoned by the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters who acquired a reputation for being fierce warriors mainly because they challenged Saddam’s troops.

The Syrian Kurdish fighters cleaned up his wounds, took him to a hospital in Syria and then brought him back to Iraq.

Others were not so lucky.

“Islamic State kidnapped about 400 to 600 people in our village and the majority of those people are women and children. They killed most of the men,” said Khodede, in the emergency room of a teaching hospital where he arrived on Monday night.

His uncle and sister are by his side as blood drips into a bag hanging from his bed.

In the chaos and panic after the latest Islamic State offensive, rumours swirled about the fate of kidnapped Yazidi women, usually referred to as “slaves” for Islamic State.

Some Yazidis believe Islamic State holds hundreds of people at a detention centre near the town of Tal Afar.

Khodede wonders if his family is there. His three children, wife and mother were taken away along with hundreds of others just because the village sheikh was defiant.



A still from a video purporting to show the execution of journalist James Foley image www.crimefiles.ne5t

A still from a video purporting to show the execution of journalist James Foley. Photo: Twitter

Baghdad: Islamic State insurgents who control territory in Iraq and Syria released a video on Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of US journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, also threatened the life of a second US journalist, Steven Sotloff, whom it claims to be holding.

The video, titled A Message To America, was posted on social media sites. It was not immediately possible to verify.

James Foley reported in the Middle East for five years image

James Foley: reported in the Middle East for five years. Photo: Manu Brabo

The video, seen by Fairfax Media, shows a man, which the video claims is Foley, wearing orange robes and kneeling beside an Islamic State militant who is dressed in black and with his face masked. The militant speaks with a British accent.

The man said to be Foley addresses the camera, saying: “I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality.

“My message to my beloved parents: save me some dignity and don’t accept any meagre compensation for my death from the same people who effectively hit the last nail in my coffin with their recent aerial campaign in Iraq.”

American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in north-west Syria on November 22, 2012 image

American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in north-west Syria on November 22, 2012.

He then addresses his brother, John, who he says is a member of the US Air Force.

“Think about the lives you destroy including those of your own family. I call on you, John: think about who made the decision to bomb Iraq recently and kill those people, whoever they may have been,” he says.

He ends with: “I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again but that ship has sailed. I guess, all in all, I wish I wasn’t American.”

The militant then accuses the US government, including President Barack Obama, of plotting against the Islamic State, and says Foley’s death is in retaliation for recent air strikes in northern Iraq.

The militant points at the camera with a knife as he says: “Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.

“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” he says, apparently referring to the other journalist.

He then appears to hack at Foley’s throat before the video fades to black. The following scene appears to show the severed head.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, released this statement: “We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of US citizen James Foley by ISIL.

“The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available.”

Foley, who has reported in the Middle East for five years, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on November 22, 2012.

A Twitter account set up by his family to help find him said early on Wednesday: “We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers. Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers.”

Islamic State’s sweep through northern Iraq, bringing it close to Baghdad and in control of the second city, Mosul, drew US air strikes on the country for the first time since the end of the American occupation in 2011.

The Sunni militant group has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria in areas it controls.

The footage was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday afternoon, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is believed to be evaluating the video’s contents.

Foley had been working for US news organisation GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse and other international media organisations when he was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012

GlobalPost said Foley’s beheading had not yet been verified.

Abbott sickened

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was sickened by the news.

He said he had not seen the video but was appalled by the reports.

“It’s absolutely sickening, absolutely despicable,” he told Brisbane’s 4BC radio.

“It’s a sign that there can be no compromise whatsoever with the murderous terrorists of the ISIL movement. This is as near to pure evil as we are ever likely to see.”

Foley previously captured

Foley was on assignment for GlobalPost when he went missing. He was on his way to the Turkish border when he was abducted by a group of armed men.

He had previously reported for GlobalPost from Libya and Afghanistan before covering the civil war in Syria from early 2012.

Foley’s last article for the news organisation outlined the growing frustration with war among the citizens of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

While covering the Libyan civil war in 2011, Foley and two other journalists, American Claire Gillis and Spaniard Manu Brabo, endured a 44-day captivity in April and May of that year at the hands of then Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

A fourth journalist South African Anton Hammerl, was killed when the journalists were captured by Gaddafi fighters near Benghazi in eastern Libya.

Foley later returned to Libya to cover Gaddafi’s fall and eventual death.

Foley and GlobalPost correspondent Tracey Shelton were at the scene of Gaddafi’s capture in October 2011.

Reuters, Fairfax Media


Peshmerga fighters inspect the remains of a car that belonged to militants in Baqufa, north of Mosul image

Peshmerga fighters inspect the remains of a car that belonged to militants in Baqufa, north of Mosul. Photo: AFP

Baghdad:  The Islamic State militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans “in any place” if the raids hit its fighters.

The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the US occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English “we will drown all of you in blood”.

Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has so far focused on seizing land in Iraq and Syria for its self-proclaimed “caliphate”, not spectacular attacks on Western targets.

Peshmerga fighter patrols near Mosul dam at the town of Chamibarakat image

A Peshmerga fighter patrols near Mosul dam at the town of Chamibarakat. Photo: AP

The latest advance by the militants sent tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi ethnic minority and Christians fleeing for their lives and alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies.

US military aircraft have carried out 35 air strikes against the militants in Iraq over the past three days, destroying more than 90 targets, the Pentagon said.

The strikes marked the most intensive US bombardments of the militants’ positions since they began on August 8. There have been a total of 68 air strikes in Iraq.

Tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi sect have fled from the militants image

Tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi sect have fled from the militants. Photo: Reuters

Drones and fighter, bomber and attack jets “eliminated” Islamist fighters’ positions as the militants battled for control of Mosul dam in northern Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said on Monday.

The air strikes have helped Kurdish fighters take back some territory captured by the militants, who have threatened to march on Baghdad.

“Iraqi forces have cleared the dam and are working to further expand their area of control,” Rear Admiral Kirby said.

Pope Francis said the international community would be justified in stopping the militants.image

Pope Francis said the international community would be justified in stopping the militants. Photo: AP

US President Barack Obama hailed the Kurds’ recapture of the key dam outside Mosul but warned Baghdad that “the wolf is at the door” and said it must move quickly to build an inclusive government.

“This operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL,” Mr Obama said. “If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America,” he promised.

“We will continue to pursue a long-term strategy to turn the tide against ISIL by supporting the new Iraqi government and working with key partners in the region,” Mr Obama said.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis said on Monday that the international community would be justified in stopping Islamist militants in Iraq, but that it should not be up to a single nation to decide how to intervene in the conflict.

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said.

The Pope was careful not to give the impression he was giving an automatic green light for military strikes, but he did not rule them out. He said the situation was grave and the international community had to respond together.

“I underscore the verb ‘to stop’. I am not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war’, but stop him [the aggressor]. The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the unjust aggressor is legitimate,” he said.

“One single nation cannot judge how he is to be stopped, how an unjust aggressor is to be stopped,” he said. He said the United Nations was the proper forum to consider whether there was unjust aggression and how to stop it.

He has sent a senior cardinal to Iraq to visit refugees and distribute Vatican charity funds and sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the need to stop the bloodshed.

Reuters, AFP

dripping blood line



A hand is silhouetted in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin May 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

(Reuters) – Community Health Systems Inc (CYH.N), one of the biggest U.S. hospital groups, said on Monday it was the victim of a cyber attack from China, resulting in the theft of Social Security numbers and other personal data belonging to 4.5 million patients.

That would make the attack the largest of its type involving patient information since a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website started tracking such breaches in 2009. The previous record, an attack on a Montana Department of Public Health server, was disclosed in June and affected about 1 million people.

The attackers appear to be from a sophisticated hacking group in China that has breached other major U.S. companies across several industries, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc’s (FEYE.O) Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June.

“They have fairly advanced techniques for breaking into organizations as well as maintaining access for fairly long periods of times without getting detected,” he said.

Carmakal and officials with Community Health Systems declined to name the group or say if it was linked to the Chinese government, which U.S. businesses and officials have long accused of orchestrating cyber espionage campaigns around the globe.

In May, a U.S. grand jury indicted five Chinese military officers on charges they hacked into U.S. companies for sensitive manufacturing secrets, the toughest action to date taken by Washington to address cyber spying. China has denied the charges.

FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said his agency was investigating the case, but declined to elaborate.

The Department of Homeland Security said it believed the incident was isolated to Community Health Systems, although it shared technical details about the attack with other healthcare providers.

An agency official told Reuters it was too soon to confirm who was behind the attack.

“While attribution of this incident is still being determined by a range of partners, we caution against leaping to premature conclusions about who or how many actors are behind these activities,” said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

The stolen information included patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of people who were referred or received services from doctors affiliated with the hospital group in the last five years, the company said in a regulatory filing. It did not include medical or clinical information.



Cybersecurity has come under increased scrutiny at healthcare providers this year, both by law enforcement and attackers.

The FBI warned the industry in April that its protections were lax compared with other sectors, making it vulnerable to hackers looking for details that could be used to access bank accounts or obtain prescriptions.

Over the past six months Mandiant has seen a spike in cyber attacks on healthcare providers, although this was the first case it had seen in which a sophisticated Chinese group has stolen personal data, according to Carmakal.

Chinese hacking groups are known for seeking out intellectual property such as product design or information that might be of use in business or political negotiations.

Social Security numbers and other personal data are typically stolen by cybercriminals to sell on underground exchanges for use by others in identity theft.

“It’s hard to tell why these guys took the data or what they plan to do with it,” said Carmakal, whose firm monitors about 20 hacking groups in China.

Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said Chinese hackers sometimes attack healthcare providers to obtain medical records of government officials and even potential intelligence assets.

“Maybe they were trying to get at the medical data, but for some reason they couldn’t, so they exfiltrated everything else, figuring that it might somehow be helpful,” Alperovitch said.

The company said the stolen data did not include credit card numbers, or any intellectual property such as data on medical device development.

Community Health, which has 206 hospitals in 29 states, said it has removed malicious software used by the attackers from its systems and completed other remediation steps. It is now notifying patients and regulatory agencies, as required by law.

It also said it is insured against such losses and does not at this time expect a material adverse effect on financial results.

Community Health’s stock was up 62 cents at $51.62 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer, Jim Finkle and Shailesh Kuber; Editing by Joyjeet Das, Lisa Von Ahn, Chizu Nomiyama, Dan Grebler and Andre Grenon)


Subscribe to Crime Files Network