The 9/11 attacks
Early in the morning of 11 September 2001, four airliners on internal flights in the USA were hijacked. The first one was deliberately crashed into the 110-story North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. A quarter of an hour later the second plane crashed into the South Tower; about an hour after the impact the entire South Tower collapsed into a vast heap of rubble, severely damaging surrounding buildings; after another 25 minutes, the North Tower also disintegrated. In the meantime, a third plane was flown into the Pentagon, the building near Washington that housed the US Department of Defense, and not in the fourth plane missed its intended target and crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania, far from Pittsburgh.
It was the most stunning atrocity ever experienced on US soil: it cost the lives of around 2800 people in the World Trade Center, well over a hundred Pentagon buildings. and some 200 who were passengers on the aircraft, including the hijackers. Television cameras filmed the second plane flying into the South Tower and the collapse of the towers, and these images, shown over and over again, only added to the horror and disbelief around the world at what was happening. Nor was it only Americans who were killed; it emerged that citizens of over forty foreign countries were among the victims, either in the buildings or as passengers on the aircraft.
Although no organization claimed responsibility for the attacks, the US government assumed that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were guilty. Certainly, it must have been carried out by educated professionals with considerable financial backing, like the members of al-Qaeda, who were known to number perhaps 5000 highly-trained activists. Recovering quickly from the initial shock.
President Bush announced that the USA would hunt down and punish not only the perpetrators of what he called ‘these acts of war’, but also those who supported and harbored them. The outrages were condemned by most of the world’s governments, although there were reports of Palestinians and other Muslim groups celebrating the humiliation of the USA. President Saddam Hussein of Iraq was reported as saying that the USA was ‘reaping the thorns of its foreign policy.
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