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World leaders pay tribute to 9/11 victims

Jihadists carried out multiple attacks in the US 20 years ago today.

Image: Peter Jordan/Alamy

Updated Sep 11th 2021, 7:45 PM

WORLD LEADERS HAVE sent messages of solidarity Saturday on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, saying the attackers had failed to destroy Western values.

World leaders sent messages of solidarity Saturday on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, saying the attackers had failed to destroy Western values.

UK Prime Minister Borish Johnson said: “We can now say with the perspective of 20 years that they [the jihadists] failed to shake our belief in freedom and democracy.

“They failed to drive our nations apart, or cause us to abandon our values, or to live in permanent fear.”

Queen Elizabeth II, in a separate message, said: “My thoughts and prayers – and those of my family and the entire nation – remain with the victims, survivors and families affected.”

Commemorations have begun in New York and in the Pentagon near Washington DC as the US marks the 20-year anniversary of the attacks.

The first events began at the site of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan with a minute’s silence at the exact moment the first jet struck the tower at 1.46pm Irish time.

The 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in Manhattan, as well as on the Pentagon and the attempt on the Capitol that was thwarted by passengers on board, saw 2,977 people lose their lives, including six Irish citizens.

The jet, on which passengers fought back, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, said: “Within 24 hours of the attack, NATO Allies invoked Article 5 for the first time, our mutual defence clause that states that an attack on one ally is an attack on every ally.

“Shortly after, NATO surveillance planes were patrolling American skies”, Stoltenberg said.

He noted the attacks were organised by Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan.

“NATO went in to prevent the country from serving as a safe haven for terrorists who could threaten us once again. And over the past two decades, no terrorist attacks against NATO Allies have been organised from Afghanistan.”

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “On 9/11 we remember those who lost their lives and honour those who risked everything to help them. Even in the darkest, most trying of times, the very best of human nature can shine through.”

European Council head Charles Michel wrote on Twitter: “The horrific attacks of #September11 20 years ago changed the course of history. We remember the victims and noble sacrifice of so many first responders and aid workers. The EU stands by the US and @POTUS in the continued fight against terrorism and extremism in all its forms.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We have now had to recognise that although we have been able to defeat terrorism, which is endangering our security, at the present time we have not achieved all our goals.

“That is why it is important for us on the German side to safeguard what we have been able to achieve, education for girls and the like, although we know that this will not be easy with the Taliban.

“Above all, bringing citizens in need of protection to Germany and giving them protection is something we feel we have a moral obligation to do,” she said.

US President Joe Biden, as well as former President Barack Obama and other dignitarie,s stood still at 8:46 am (1246 GMT), the moment the first plane struck the World Trade Center, before relatives started reading the names of the dead.

At 2.03pm a bell sounded to mark the second jet crashing into the second of the towers.

In a video posted on the eve of the anniversary, Biden urged Americans to show unity, “our greatest strength.”

“To me, that’s the central lesson of September 11th. It’s that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, in the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength,” Biden said in a six-minute message from the White House.

But former president Donald Trump took a different tone, using the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to slam the “horrible” withdrawal from Afghanistan and the “incompetence” of Joe Biden’s administration during the frenzied end to America’s longest war.

“It’s a horrible thing that took place, a horrible, horrible thing,” Trump said in televised comments during a visit to the New York Police Department’s 17th precinct.

“It looked like we retreated, it looked like we gave up. Like, they use the word surrender,” he told officers at the precinct, referring to the final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last month following the Taliban takeover of the country.

“And we didn’t surrender, our people didn’t surrender and our soldiers sure as hell didn’t surrender,” he said.

The US military intervention in Afghanistan began in late 2001 in the wake of Al-Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside the US capital.

Al-Qaeda had been sheltering in Taliban-held Afghanistan, and the US invasion toppled the extremist regime in a bid to find Al-Qaeda’s leaders.

But the Taliban soon launched an insurgency and, after two decades of war, stormed back to power last month as the US military was completing its withdrawal.

During his presidency, Trump brokered a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 that would have seen all US troops out by May 2021 in return for security guarantees from the insurgents.

But it was his successor Biden who carried out the withdrawal, moving the date back to August 31 but lifting all conditions.

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The Taliban captured Kabul and the Afghan government collapsed on August 15, giving the US and its allies two weeks to conduct one of the biggest airlifts in history, marked by scenes of desperation as Afghans desperate to flee crowded the airport.

One Islamic State-claimed suicide blast at the airport killed dozens of Afghan civilians and 13 US troops during the evacuation, the highest toll for America in the war in years.

Earlier on Saturday, Trump also released a video message calling September 11 a “very sad day” and again slammed the Afghan withdrawal.

He blamed “bad planning, incredible weakness and leaders who truly didn’t understand what was happening.”

“Joe Biden and his inept administration surrendered in defeat,” Trump said in the message.

“We will struggle to recover from the embarrassment this incompetence has caused.”

Trump did not attend the formal 9/11 anniversary ceremony at Ground Zero in New York, as did Biden and former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Trump was to return to Florida on Saturday to provide ringside commentary at the fight between former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and Brazilian mixed martial arts star Vitor Belfort.

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