13 years after attacks, US still embroiled in terrorism fight

2014-09-12 10:23
File: AP

File: AP

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New York - A moment of silence across the United States marked the commemoration ceremonies on Thursday for the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 that killed nearly 3 000 people.

The commemoration came a day after US President Barack Obama signalled the US will pursue the Islamic State terrorists into Syria, an escalation of US involvement in the three-year-old conflict he had long tried to avoid.

When he took office in 2009, he pledged to end US military engagements prompted by the 9/11 attacks.

In New York City, victims' families, local officials and representatives from the city's fire and police departments gathered at the National September 11 Memorial plaza to observe a moment of silence at 08:46, the moment the first hijacked plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Centre.

At the subsequent ceremony, the names of victims were read aloud as family members held pictures of their loved ones.

The attack killed 2 753 people in New York alone, including more than 300 rescue workers who had rushed to the disaster scene.

'Small and hateful minds'

Five more moments of silence were observed during the ceremony, marking the times when three other hijacked planes crashed and when each of the two World Trade Centre towers collapsed.

In Washington, Obama, his wife Michelle and Vice President Joe Biden participated in the moment of silence on the White House lawn.

Later, Obama laid a wreath at the Pentagon, where hijackers crashed one of the four jets and killed 184 people.

"Thirteen years after small and hateful minds conspired to break us, America stands tall, and America stands proud," Obama told relatives of the victims. "And guided by the values that sustain us, we will only grow stronger."

Hundreds of people, including camera-wielding tourists waited for hours on Thursday near memorial plaza in New York City before it was opened for the first time since 2001 to the public.

"I have a strange feeling," Mark Furman, 43, who lost one of his friends in the attacks, told dpa.

"After 13 years I can finally go and see the memorial, and it can happen in the next 15 minutes, but I am not sure if I can do it," Furman said while trying to choke back tears.

'Deeply emotional'

During the day on Thursday, all victims' families and first responders were allowed for the first time to visit the memorial, while the site was open to the public after 18:00.

During the past anniversaries, only a limited number of victims' family members could obtain tickets to attend the ceremonies.

A British couple flew all the way from England to be among the first ordinary people to attend the ceremony after they heard they site was open to the public.

"I am very deeply emotional," Ian Dixon, 56, said while standing near the World Trade Centre north pool. "I had to step back for a moment because it was getting overwhelming."

His wife Janet, 52, said she felt the same.

"It is very overpowering and you sense the loss because people died here, but you can also sense love as people from all around the world come here today to pay tribute," she said.

Thousands of people were expected to visit the memorial plaza, which remained opened until midnight, according to authorities.

Suicide terrorists

On 11 September 2001, four passenger jets were hijacked by suicide terrorists and used to target the two World Trade Centre towers in New York and the Pentagon outside of Washington, marking the deadliest terrorist attacks ever on US soil.

The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania, apparently while passengers rose up against the hijackers. It is believed the hijackers had wanted to crash that plane into the Capitol where Congress meets or the White House.

The attacks killed 2 977 people.

Of the two masterminds of the attacks, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden of Saudi Arabia was killed in a 2011 US raid into Pakistan.

The second, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed of Pakistan and Kuwait, was captured in 2003 and transferred to the Guantanamo Bay military detention centre in Cuba where he is standing trial for mass murder.

He has proclaimed his pride over organising the attacks during court proceedings. The prison was set up after 9/11 for suspected terrorists to avoid trying them in the US court system.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  barack obama  |  joe biden  |  osama bin laden  |  michelle obama  |  us  |  9/11 attacks

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