From dust rises force of fury
Investigators zero in on Boston hotel
Bush vows to meet war with war
Soft targets all, Taj to Red Fort
Numbed citizens drown despair in patriotism
Sense of unease lingers in capital
Nuclear bunkers keep US running
New war’s enemy hard to spot and punish
Blair prepares Britain for joint strikes on terror zones
Calcutta Weather

New York & Washington, Sept. 12 : 
President George W. Bush committed the US to a “monumental struggle of good versus evil” as rescue workers dug through rubble for survivors and fought fires still burning after the worst attack on the country since Pearl Harbor.

As the nation tried to move back to a semblance of normal life, Americans also braced themselves for a death toll expected to climb well into the thousands from the attacks.

Knife-wielding hijackers commandeered four planes on Tuesday and flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center, toppling the two highest structures in the city; a third seriously damaged the Pentagon. The fourth hijacked plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

Secretary of state Colin Powell said the US was planning a “worldwide effort” to build a coalition involving not only Nato but Muslim states as well to fight “terrorism”. Powell said he expected the fullest cooperation from Pakistan if the US decided to act. The UN pulled its staff out of Kabul and Islamabad, prompting an appeal from the Taliban to the US against launching an attack.

Nato invoked the mutual defence clause for the first time in its history, raising the possibility of a collective military response to the attacks.

New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the preliminary toll was 45 but the figure would move into the thousands. “The best estimate we can make, relying on the Port Authority and just everybody else that has experience with this, is there will be a few thousand people left in each building,” he said, referring to the massive twin towers of the World Trade Center where 40,000 people worked.

At least 202 firefighters were still missing and 259 uniformed service members had not been accounted for, he said. Edward Plaugher, in charge of fighting the fire at the Pentagon in northern Virginia, said the death toll at the US military headquarters could range from 100 to 800 people.

Bush, facing the defining moment of his eight-month-old presidency, said: “This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil but good will prevail.”

Americans reacted with controlled fury and a burst of patriotism as the full dimensions of the devastation began to emerge. The country was still far from functioning normally with airports and financial markets shut down and many schools closed.

Authorities had hoped to begin resuming commercial air services around noon but it became clear many airports were not ready. Financial markets were scheduled to reopen tomorrow.

The first clues began to emerge about the identities of the perpetrators, pointing towards a possible West Asian and Islamic connection. Two Boston newspapers reported that authorities in Massachusetts had identified five Arab men as suspects.

As a cloud of dust still hung over New York City, rescue workers reported signs of life in the rubble, including at least one person sending out calls on a cell phone. The world’s financial centre resembled a desolate war zone, the streets of lower Manhattan coated in gray ash and a thick trail of smoke pouring into the sky from where the World Trade Center’s twin towers once stood.

Arizona Sen. John McCain described the national mood as one of “controlled fury”. Some New Yorkers flew American flags on their cars as they drove to work.

Powell said the US response would far surpass a single reprisal raid. “This is going to take a multifaceted attack on many dimensions — diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement.”

A Pakistani newspaper said Osama bin Laden had denied any role in the attacks.


Boston, Sept. 12 : 
Heavily armed police and FBI agents swarmed into a hotel here this afternoon in what appeared to be a possible arrest attempt in the wake of the terror attacks.

Police cordoned off the area around Boston’s Westin-Copley Hotel where an armoured vehicle and officers in riot gear arrived shortly after noon. A bomb squad with dogs and ambulances also reached the spot after Boston police and FBI agents entered the hotel.

US agents searched homes and businesses in Florida, focusing on an aviation school where two suspects may have received flight training. Search warrants were served on homes in Davie and Coral Springs, two towns west of Fort Lauderdale, and agents searched businesses in Hollywood and a home in Sarasota County on the state’s west coast.

FBI agents interviewed a former employee of a Florida flight school who may have housed two of the suspects in his home for a short time and seized files and a computer from the school, a newspaper reported. Media attention focused on a man named Mohammed Atta, who was apparently listed on the flight manifest of one of the hijacked planes.


Washington, Sept. 12 : 
President George W. Bush has called the terror attacks “acts of war” and asked Congress for emergency authority to spend whatever it takes to recover from the worst attack on US soil.

“The deliberate and deadly attacks, which were carried out yesterday against our country, were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war,” Bush said.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said there was “real and credible information” that White House and Air Force One were targets of the attacks and the plane that hit Pentagon was headed for the presidential house. It was also revealed that some of the hijackers were trained as pilots in the US.

Bush vowed to use all resources to “conquer” the enemy. “This battle will take time and resolve, but make no mistake about it, we will win,” he said. “America is united. The freedom-loving nations of the world stand by our side,” he said.

“This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail.”

Bush, flanked by secretary of state Colin Powell and vice-president Dick Cheney, made the comments in the White House Cabinet room after meeting his national security team.

Bush said he was sending to Congress a request for emergency funding authority to spend whatever it takes to rescue victims, help citizens of New York and Washington and to protect the country’s national security.

Bill Young, chairman of the House of Representatives appropriations committee, said he would support “whatever it takes to prove to the rest of the world that Americans are not going to be intimidated by this kind of cowardice”.

Bush began the morning with intelligence briefings and later met leading lawmakers from both parties. After the meeting the lawmakers said both parties stood together in their desire to move forward on Bush’s requests.

Analysts see the events of Tuesday morning as a turning point in Bush’s young presidency, challenging the foreign policy neophyte to prove he can handle such a crisis.

Bush has vowed to avenge the attacks, saying he would “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them”.

Bush said “we will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life”.

White House said Bush would not be travelling in the near-term, though he wants to visit the sites of the attacks.

The world watched to see how the President would react. As they waited, Americans and politicians from all parties offered support.

Former President Bill Clinton, in Australia on vacation, said the US needed to send a clear message to the world that it stood united behind Bush.

An opinion poll showed that 78 per cent of the 619 people interviewed before Bush’s Tuesday night address expressed confidence in him.


New Delhi, Sept. 12: 
As television replayed footage after footage of aircraft slamming into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, viewers in India and the world over wondered if such attacks can be replicated.

It is a spine-chilling thought for defence experts and administrators as they answer the question with a resounding “yes”.

India has no dearth of “soft targets” but none perhaps with the international symbolism that the devastated American edifices represented: of US financial and military might.

“Religious fundamentalism backed by state power can be an explosive combination,” Union home minister Lal Krishna Advani said. “If there are ‘suicide squads’, which a neighbouring country calls Fedayeen, then such things are possible. It is possible for such squads to sneak into the Red Fort and cause damage to it, just as it is possible for them to hijack civilian aircraft and use them as bombs to bring down the World Trade Center.”

If a foolproof mechanism to stave off suicide squads has been invented anywhere, it has not been on show. The strike on the Pentagon, surely one of the most protected and hitherto “secure” structures anywhere and of all times, is a proof of that.

“If the Pentagon can be brought down, so can the Taj Mahal,” says Sridhar Rao, senior fellow with the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis. “From a needle to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, anything can be targeted. The Lashkar-e-Toiba claimed that it could attack the Prime Minister’s house if it so wishes. Terrorists will choose their targets depending on the statement they want to make.”

The attackers of the WTC and the Pentagon were making a statement against perceived American hegemony. The WTC — described by former state department spokesman James Rubin as “the nerve centre of the civilised world” — was a civilian target but the Pentagon was a military one.

Together, they formed the core of American nationhood and, for that reason, were on somebody’s gunsights, analyses Sridhar.

For sometime now, one school of military experts has been predicting that unconventional wars would become more and more frequent. With nuclear capabilities increasing, no force would dare invoke the ultimate weapon because of the costs involved. Aijaz Ahmad, professor of strategic studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, writes that the Kargil conflict was an unconventional war. So was the shooting down of Pakistani aircraft over Sir Creek in the Rann of Kutch border in 1999. So are facets of the low intensity conflict in Kashmir and in the northeast.

“This is a cheap war,” says Colonel P. N. Khera, editor of Asian Defence News International. “In that sense, it is a war without principles. The adversary refrains from engaging conventional armed forces directly. So it picks on soft targets - it is in a position to pick and choose because it is unknown - civilian targets. And, it uses unconventional tactics. At one level, the attacks in the US are a crude use of technology.”

The use of civilian aircraft, Kamikaze style, does not represent a high degree of technological sophistication. “It is probably among the easiest on this subcontinent, as the hijacking to Kandahar showed,” says Sridhar. “So you have to change the Pilot Instruction Manual for civilian aircraft. In all probability the pilot of the plane that crashed near Pittsburgh probably did just that. I refuse to believe that American military planes brought it down because it headed towards another target - maybe the Capitol or the White House. The military would have forced it down. My understanding is the pilot deliberately crashed the plane.”


Washington, Sept. 12 : 
Appalled by the most heinous acts of terror on US soil, many citizens directed their numbing despair into patriotism today from a mass display of flags to donating blood and volunteering.

With encouragement from the President, political and community leaders, Americans rallied together after kamikaze pilots rammed planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon yesterday, killing thousands.

Described by Webster’s as a “love and loyal or zealous support of one’s country,” patriotism offered some comfort to those coming to grips with the horror of yesterday’s attacks.

“On this occasion we are once again showing the world what it means to be an American,” Democratic Rep. Richard Gephardt, House Minority leader, told Congress.

“We are determined to show the world that America will not be defeated by anyone,” he added. In New York — the epicentre of the violence — Mayor Rudy Giuliani said there were more volun teers than the city knew what to do with. “The people of the city, their spirit is tremendous... This city is the greatest city in the world and a bunch of cowardly terrorists cannot make us fearful,” Giuliani said.

In the most obvious sign of patriotism, flag sales soared across the country. Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, said it sold 88,000 American flags yesterday, compared with 6,000 flags on the same day last year. Patriotic red, blue and white ribbons were also flying off the shelves.

In federal buildings, flags were at half mast as a sign of the respect for the thousands who died. Local radio stations in the capital urged listeners to hang out American flags from their homes and businesses.

Outside the White House, visitors to the capital waved small flags handed out to them while doing a tour of the landmark building. “It really brings it home how important our freedom is. We were scared yesterday. Today we are really proud,” said Kaye McPhie, 63, from Salt Lake City.

American University professor Mitch Hammer said the public’s response was steadily shifting from a sense of horror and disbelief to an arising patriotism because America was seen as under threat.

“There is a distinct possibility that unless the American public takes the high road then it will go from numbing disbelief to rage. We need to channel patriotism in the proper way,” cautioned Hammer. In personal signs of compassion, tens of thousands of people across the country donated blood to help those injured in the tragedy.

Brian Dow, a state worker in Florida’s capital, found more than 50 people ahead of him in a line that snaked outside the blood donation centre in Tallahassee. “I couldn’t even get into the parking lot, there were so many people there. I’m going to have to go back in a day or two,” said Dow, standing by a nearly empty display of US flags.


Washington, Sept. 12 : 
A veneer of normalcy pervaded the US capital today, with trains running on time, offices open and commuters going to work — but there were uniformed police in the subway, concrete barriers at federal buildings and a palpable sense of unease in the air.

In this media-conscious city, where newspapers are sold on most downtown corners, the din of screaming headlines was hard to ignore: “ACT OF WAR” from USA Today; “DEVASTATION” in The Baltimore Sun; “INFAMY” from The Washington Times.

Under a state of emergency, police and military patrolled the city and the Secret Service boosted security around the White House, one day after two hijacked planes toppled New York’s World Trade Center towers and another hijacked flight crashed into the Pentagon, knocking out a slice of the building and starting a fire that continued to burn today.

Local fire authorities said up to 800 people were believed to have perished when an American Airlines jetliner commandeered at Washington Dulles International Airport crashed into a newly renovated section of Pentagon, the defence department’s massive five-sided headquarters in Virginia.

Smoke from the massive concrete structure drifted over Washington, but officials said fires were nearly under control by mid-morning.

Congress and federal agencies reopened for business after being shut down yesterday, as did the city’s many tourist attractions, including all of Smithsonian Institution’s museums and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The Washington Monument was closed for construction unrelated to the attacks.

There were few takers for the White House tour, which normally spawns a block-long line of sightseers waiting to get in.

Flags throughout the city were flying at half staff.

“I think that DC is probably safe today. I think the danger was yesterday,” said Julie Feinsilver, who works at a bank a few blocks from the White House. “This sends out the message ‘Business as usual.’”

“I certainly felt depressed yesterday and today,” she said.

“In fact we just went out for a cup of coffee because we were depressed about what happened and we wanted to talk about it a bit.”

Around the Capitol, morning brought the usual bumper-to-bumper traffic on streets reopened after being partially closed yesterday, but rush hour was eerily silent despite the gridlock. Lawmakers were expected to approve a statement condemning the attacks.

As far away as the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland — about 13 km from the White House — there were concrete barriers at entrances and a visible and atypical police presence throughout the area.

Police in bullet-proof vests guarded entrances to the area’s subway system and patrolled the train platform. Military vehicles rumbled in the capital overnight and District of Columbia mayor Anthony Williams declared a state of emergency in the city and all the hospitals in the region were put on “maximum alert.”

While federal Washington was officially open, it was far from business as usual for its nervous residents. Most schools were ordered closed and a liberal leave policy went into force to enable parents to stay home with their children.


London, Sept. 12: 
The American administration will continue to function from key bunkers, built nearly fifty years ago in anticipation of possible nuclear attacks, according to details revealed today.

The Guardian revealed how a bunker, hidden deep below the Raven Rock mountains, will be the nerve centre from where the US military and political administration will be run as the White House and Pentagon have been closed down. That together with an extensive network of aircraft and ships will keep the most powerful country in the world functioning.

The newspaper described how after 50 years of preparation for a nuclear attack on Washington, the US administration has come up with an extensive back-up of networks that will keep it going.

Comprehensive plans for continuity of government (COG) include a 24-hour-a-day secret service team that tracks the movement of the President and all his potential successors, making sure that key government officials are not in the same place at the same time.

Most of America’s emergency COG bunkers are located in a ring around Washington, deep underground, and sufficiently far from Washington to escape the effects of nuclear attack. They spread from Pennsylvania to West Virginia. The key centre is Site R, hidden deep below Raven Rock mountain in Pennsylvania, close to the US Presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland.

Also known as the Alternate National Military Command Centre, Site R duplicates the military command and communication centre situated underneath the Pentagon itself. A basic shelter and command centre is also located at Camp David.

Buried inside tunnels several hundred feet underground, these control centres are immune from terrorist attacks, even those as violent as yesterday’s.

The hub of US emergency planning is a deep underground bunker at Mount Weather, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. The site includes 200,000 square feet of underground space, accommodates 200 permanent employees, and is linked directly to the White House situation room.

Both the Mount Weather and Raven Rock bunkers were completed in the mid-1950s. By the 1970s, they were thought to be vulnerable to Soviet missiles and were supplemented by converted civil airliners, now 747 jumbo jets.

President Bush spent much of the early hours of the crisis yesterday on board Air Force One before landing at Barksdale air force base in Louisiana. After several detours he finally arrived in Washington late at night.

The British foreign office, in the mean time, has advised its citizens in Muslim countries to lie low and be prepared for possible attacks and demonstrations.

The British Cabinet held an emergency meeting yesterday and devised several security measures including the banning of flights over Central London, and putting its police and defence personnel on full alert.


Washington, Sept. 12: 
Yesterday’s devastating and astonishingly well-coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York and on the Pentagon outside of Washington plunged the nation into a warlike struggle against an enemy that will be hard to identify with certainty and hard to punish with precision.

The whole nation — to a degree the whole world — shook as hijacked airliners plunged into buildings that symbolise the financial and military might of the US. The sense of security and self-confidence that Americans take as their birthright suffered a grievous blow, from which recovery will be slow.

The aftershocks will be nearly as bad, as thousands of people discover that friends or relatives died awful, fiery deaths.

Scenes of chaos and destruction evocative of the nightmare world of Hieronymus Bosch, with smoke and debris blotting out the sun, were carried by television into homes and workplaces across the nation.

Echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s description of the attack on Pearl Harbor as an event “which will live in infamy,’’ Gov. George Pataki of New York, a Republican, spoke of “an incredible outrage’’ and Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democrat, spoke of “a dastardly attack.’’

But mere words were inadequate vessels to contain the sense of shock and horror that people felt. As Washington struggled to regain a sense of equilibrium, with warplanes and heavily armed helicopters crossing overhead, past and present national security officials earnestly debated the possibility of a congressional declaration of war — but against precisely whom, and in what exact circumstances?

Warships were dispatched into New York Harbour. The North American Air Defence Command, which had seemed to many a relic of the Cold War, adopted a posture of heightened alert and suddenly seemed relevant.

Disappointing some of his political advisers and allies, who felt he should have returned to Washington at once from a trip to Florida to symbolise that the government was functioning, President Bush headed instead to Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha where a more secure command post was available. At the height of the Cuban missile crisis, John F. Kennedy stayed in Washington.

The President flew back to Washington last night, escorted by F-15 and F-16 fighters, as leaders of both parties closed ranks behind him with pledges of support and a stirring rendition of “God Bless America.’’

In a brief, earnest televised speech, he said the day had taken “thousands of lives’’ and generated “a quiet, unyielding anger’’ in the nation.

He promised that those who harboured terrorists would be treated as harshly as the terrorists themselves.

For Bush the attacks constituted a threat and an opportunity. A minority president, just a few months into his term, derided by many as intellectually inadequate for his job, he is likely to be judged, at least in the months ahead, on whether he can take command and act decisively.

Will he prove to be a Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was poisoned by his inability to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis? Or will he enhance his reputation, as Ronald Reagan did after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and as Bill Clinton did after the Oklahoma City bombing?

Samuel Popkin, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego, who worked in the presidential campaign of Al Gore, said: “Many Americans have come to consider politics irrelevant in recent years. Now politicians matter again, and the President, in his role as commander in chief, becomes our focal point.’’

In a statement made at an air base in Louisiana, Bush said that “the resolve of our great nation is being tested,’’ and pledged that the test would be met. He is being tested as well, far more severely than ever before. Sen. John McCain, Bush’s sometime Republican rival, said he was confident that the culprits would be caught and severely punished, and that the President would “ensure something like this will never happen again.’’ Together, the two men’s comments set the bar very high - perhaps too high.

No doubt the public will rise to the challenge as best it can; many of those in the buildings hit yesterday reacted with almost supernatural calm. But Bush alone must decide how to retaliate and against whom, and he will be operating in a murky area. “This went far beyond anything we had expected,’’ a senior intelligence official conceded.

“We’re better than we used to be at monitoring terrorist activities, but today makes it obvious we are not nearly good enough.’’ It follows, then, that preventing another attack will be very difficult. And while it is evidently easier to identify malefactors after an attack than it is to predict their activities, many experts cautioned against assuming, for example, that yesterday’s attacks were the handiwork of Osama bin Laden.

Even if Washington concludes that bin Laden’s organisation or some other foreign terrorist group was responsible, devising an appropriate response will present a number of complications. For one thing, bombs and rockets tend to kill the innocent as well as the guilty. As a Democratic senator said, “You’re likely to bomb a city or a village with 100 terrorists and end up with 400 or 500 when the warplanes have flown away.’’

Some strategists suggested that Bush might mount a ground attack on bin Laden’s headquarters, which are believed to be somewhere in Afghanistan, much as Woodrow Wilson sent U.S. troops into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa, “dead or alive.’’

But they did not get him, and Afghanistan has proved resistant, throughout its history, to foreign forces trying to operate there.

If the US develops solid evidence that any country aided the perpetrators of yesterday’s attacks, said Richard Holbrooke, ambassador to the UN under the Clinton administration, a declaration of war against that country might be appropriate and retaliation against it should certainly be undertaken in short order. Another consideration is the attitude of West Asian oil states to any retaliatory attack by the US, which remains uncertain.

Many Americans, particularly those old enough to remember December 7, 1941, compared to yesterday’s events with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. But in that attack, after the first few minutes of confusion, it had been evident that the planes were Japanese — they had military markings on their wings, instead of airline names on their fuselages, as was the case yesterday.

Militarily daring as the Doolittle raid on Tokyo may have been, there was no doubt that it hit the right target.

This was Pearl Harbour redux without the face of an enemy. In today’s more anomalous situation, Bush is likely to avail himself more fully than he has to date of the knowledge, experience and prestige of his secretary of state, retired Gen. Colin Powell.

The President “needs Colin like he’s never needed him before,’’ an administration official said.

It appears possible that the attacks will undercut Bush’s campaign for a missile defense shield by suggesting that such a shield would concentrate US resources on seeking protection against the wrong kind of threat.


London, Sept. 12: 
Tony Blair today spoke to George Bush and as America’s closest ally, Britain will support any military action the United States takes in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Blair, who announced he was recalling parliament on Friday because of “the sheer magnitude of what has happened”, agreed with the assessment that the US was now at war.

He pledged to share British intelligence on Islamic terrorism with the Americans and prepared the British for the consequences of supporting the Bush administration.

He anticipated criticism that the Americans might lash out against Afghanistan, where Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden is apparently being sheltered by the Taliban, and other countries, without firm evidence of who really was responsible. Some fear that Britain could become more of a target for terrorists if it becomes involved in American reprisals.

At a news conference at Downing Street, Blair predicted that among the dead in America, a “significant number will be British”.

“Our interests are engaged in a direct way,” the Prime Minister emphasised.

The connection between the British and the Americans was reinforced by the staff in finance houses at Canary Wharf, Britain’s tallest office block and thought to be a possible terrorist target, who said they did day-to-day business with counterparts in the now-demolished World Trade Center.

Everything Blair said appeared to be a preparation for a joint US-UK military operation.

He stressed that the attacks were not solely on the US or a number of buildings in America but on the “very notion of a free and democratic world”.

Pro-American and anti-Islamic emotion in Britain has been raised by round-the-clock TV broadcasts and saturation coverage in newspapers and radio.

The British government’s emergency committee called COBRA has met and put London’s business and commercial centres and Heathrow and Gatwick airports on high alert.

An extra 1,000 police, many armed, have been drafted into London.

The US embassy in London, which received many floral bouquets and mourners, and American bases in Britain are being closely guarded.

All flights to America as well as to many destinations in West Asia — and to Islamabad — have been suspended for the time being.

Fearful that Pakistan might be tarred with the Taliban brush, President Pervez Musharraf was shown on British television today sharing his “deep grief with the American people” and “condemning this most brutal and horrible act”.

This may get him and Pakistan off the hook for the moment but Blair was reflecting Bush’s thinking that the reprisals will be aimed not only against the terrorists — in this case, they were mostly on board the hijacked jets and, therefore, dead — but those who harbour them.

Blair said he had already consulted the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Italy on the need for a coordinated response to terrorists — “where these groups are, who finances them, and who supports them”.

This new definition of terrorism, as expostulated by Blair today, may serve India well should it want one day to go across the Line of Control in hot pursuit of terrorists in Kashmir. An important legal precedent is now being set.

Blair, however, made one important point not mentioned by Bush.

Aware that Britain has a million Muslims and that some of them, who have already been involved in race riots during the summer, and whose homes and mosques may now suffer from wanton acts of revenge, Blair said: “This is a not a war between Islam and the rest of the world.”

He added that he was pleased that the Muslim Council of Britain had come out against the terrorist attacks in America.

The majority of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere were decent, upright and law abiding, the Prime Minister said.

However, British intelligence recognises that some hardline Pakistani groups see Kashmir, Palestine and opposition to the American administration as part of a much broader fight in support of a militant form of Islam.

There are wiser counsel in Britain who are urging restraint on Bush by arguing that indiscriminate attacks on people who later turn out to be innocent could exacerbate the very terrorism the Americans are trying to solve.




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