Attack on America
Bush looks to God
Bin Laden had promised a very big one
Taliban mount fresh offensive
Markets crash, oil prices soar
Mass terror numbs world
New York crumbles in morning nightmare
Capital freezes in its tracks
Hungary feasts on Shergill art
Calcutta Weather

Washington, Sept. 11 : 

Dead without numbers in undeclared war

Three hijacked planes crashed into the symbols of American financial and military power, destroying New York�s mighty World Trade Center and hitting the Pentagon in Washington.

Loss of life was expected to be catastrophic from the collapse of the giant twin towers of the World Trade Center where more than 40,000 people work. The two enormous edifices fell in a huge cloud of smoke and fire two hours after the initial impacts.

Another plane crashed near Pittsburgh. It was not clear if this was another attempted hijacking.

President George W. Bush cut short a visit to Florida and was making his way back to Washington, where a state of emergency has been declared.

Hospitals in New York were overwhelmed with patients as a massive cloud billowed into the blue skies over Manhattan where the city skyline had been dramatically and permanently altered. The two 110-storey towers, part of the largest commercial complex in the world, were reduced almost to rubble.

New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani said there had been a �tremendous number of lives lost� in the attacks on his city.

Before the buildings collapsed and while the planes were lodged near the top of each tower, bodies fell to the street below, eyewitnesses said. Darren Cohen, an electrician, said: �I heard the boom and saw flames. People were jumping out of the windows.�

�I looked outside and saw a big chunk of the World Trade Center missing,� said Ellen Leon, whose office is in the neighbourhood. �Bodies were flying out. I don�t know if they were already dead or if they were just going to die.�

Throngs of people raced up the lower Broadway blocks north of the terror attack, yelling �It�s coming for us�, �Run� and �We�re going to die�.

Early speculation about the source of the attack centred on Saudi-born guerrilla leader Osama bin Laden. An Arab journalist with access to bin Laden said in London that three weeks ago the renegade Saudi had warned of an �unprecedented attack� on US interests.

But the Taliban, Afghanistan�s militia regime that has given shelter to bin Laden, insisted he could not be responsible.

It was the most dramatic and deadly attack on the US mainland in modern history. The strikes forced the evacuation of the White House, Capitol Hill, the UN and CIA headquarters and other tall buildings around the country, cut cellphone communications on the East Coast and grounded all commercial planes in the United States. All flights to the US have been diverted to Canada.

�This is an act of war by madmen,� European Union external relations commissioner Chris Patten said. �It is the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor,� he said, comparing the devastating attacks to the Japanese surprise bombing of a US naval base in the Pacific in 1942.

�This is one of those few days in life that one can actually say will change everything,� Patten added.

All three planes used in the attacks were hijacked, one of them from Boston and one from Washington. It was not immediately known who flew the planes and what happened to them.

The two largest US airlines, American and United, each said two of their commercially-scheduled flights crashed on Tuesday, with extensive loss of life among the total 266 people on board the four planes.

The day of horror began around 9 am in New York, when the first plane ploughed into the south tower of World Trade Center as workers were streaming into the building. It opened a huge hole near the top of the building. Two hours later, the whole building collapsed on itself in a huge cloud of smoke and fire.

TV stations caught the second plane ploughing into the second of the twin towers, exploding in a fireball 18 minutes after the first impact. That building caved in about an hour after the first.

Forty-five minutes later, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, throwing people off their feet inside the building and setting off a massive fire. A car bomb went off simultaneously outside the state department building. �It�s clear this is terrorist-related. We�re not sure who is responsible,� an official said.


Florida, Sept. 11 : 
The worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor tore George W. Bush from what should have been a routine education event and threw him into the direst crisis of his young presidency.

The President was reading to schoolchildren at an elementary school when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, interrupted him and whispered into his ear. The President�s face clouded but he said nothing.

�We�ll talk about it later,� he told reporters as he walked out of Sandra Kay Daniels� second-grade class, where he also listened to 18 smiling young pupils go through routine reading and pronunciation drills.

The President spoke out after the second incident, aborting another education-themed event. He declared �a national tragedy� and vowed an all-out hunt for the authors of what he called �an apparent terrorist attack�.

Bush called for a moment of silence. �May God bless the victims, their families and America,� he said, his voice breaking with emotion.

Before being whisked away on Air Force One with a military jet at each wingtip, Bush said: �Today, we�ve had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.

�I have spoken to the Vice-President, to the governor of New York, to the director of the FBI, and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and the families and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act. Terrorism against our nation will not stand.�

Asked what Bush�s reaction was to the first crash, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said: �He obviously was struck by what took place.�

Later, Bush landed in secret at a Louisiana air force base as White House scrambled to protect him. When Air Force One touched down at Barksdale Air Force Base, it was immediately surrounded by soldiers bearing automatic weapons and dressed in camouflage fatigues.

White House said First Lady Laura Bush and presidential daughters Barbara and Jenna were taken to secure locations. Bush spoke to his wife from the base.

White House took extraordinary precautions to keep the President�s location shrouded in secrecy, refusing at first to tell reporters on board the plane where he was going, while the plane climbed steeply at one point in an apparent diversionary measure.

On arrival at the base, reporters were banned even from using their cellular phones so that the calls could not be tracked back to his base and reveal his location.

A grim Bush snapped off a sharp salute to an air force officer at the foot of the steps and boarded a blue Dodge Caravan van, a departure from the regular motorcade and limousine that is the usual presidential ground transportation.

The van swept the President, accompanied by top aides, including Card and adviser Karl Rove, to a building on the base for a 10-minute meeting.

He then went to a windowless conference room in a building on the base where military personnel and aides scurried to erect a podium and two American flags so he could give a statement to reporters on the attacks.

Taped to the glass door of the building where the news conference took place was a paper sign reading �delta� � the US military�s highest security designation.

�Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts,� he vowed.

�Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faithless coward,� Bush said. �Freedom will be defended.�

Bush later left for an air force base in Nebraska from where he was expected to leave for Washington. The President was scheduled to convene a meeting of top national security aides via teleconference from Nebraska.

Responding to the President�s call, the US Atlantic Fleet despatched aircraft carriers to Washington and New York to provide air defences.

�We have not seen an attack like this, certainly not since Pearl Harbor,� said Admiral Robert Natter, commander of the US Atlantic Fleet.

Despite the parallel with Pearl Harbor, the shadow of West Asia loomed large. The Camp David agreement was signed this week 23 years ago.

The fleet also sent guided missile cruisers and guided missile destroyers, capable of thwarting air attacks, and amphibious ships, equipped with onboard medical facilities, to New York.

�The amphibs have very extensive medical capabilities,� said a spokesman of the fleet. �The other ships are more defensive in nature.�


London, Sept. 11: 
Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden warned three weeks ago that he and his followers would carry out an unprecedented attack on US interests for its support of Israel, an Arab journalist with access to him said today.

Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, an Arabic-language weekly news magazine, said Islamic fundamentalists led by bin Laden were �almost certainly� behind the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. �It is most likely the work of Islamic fundamentalists. Osama bin Laden warned three weeks ago that he would attack American interests in an unprecedented attack, a very big one,� Atwan said.

�Personally we received information that he planned very, very big attacks against American interests. We received several warnings like this. We did not take it so seriously, preferring to see what would happen before reporting it.�

Atwan has interviewed bin Laden and maintains close contacts with his followers.

An anonymous caller told Abu Dhabi Television that the radical Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine was responsible for the two New York crashes, but a senior DFLP official in the Palestinian territories denied any involvement. �I emphasise that the story released on Abu Dhabi TV by an anonymous person is totally incorrect,� said Tayseer Khaled, a senior official of the DFLP politburo.

Atwan said anti-American sentiment in West Asia was at its peak and moderate Arab governments had been �embarrassed� by what they saw as Bush�s reluctance to lead peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. �The more moderate Arab governments were pleading with the American administration to intervene and to resume its sponsorship to the peace talks and put an end to the Israeli aggression. The Bush administration let them down,� Atwan said.

He said the US, if convinced that bin Laden was behind the attacks, would probably retaliate in Afghanistan where he is thought to be in hiding. �I will not be surprised that the Americans will send their cruise missiles to Afghanistan. There is no other country because bin Laden is in Afghanistan.�

Few terrorist groups in the world could mount an operation on such a scale and the most likely of them was bin Laden, said an aviation expert at Jane�s Transport here today.

He described the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon as the biggest terrorist attack ever in history.

Chris Yates, an aviation expert, said: �It takes a logistics operation from the terror group involved that is second to none. Only a very small handful of terror groups is on that list � I would name at the top of the list Osama Bin Laden.�

Other analysts said the aim of the terrorists striking at the heart of the US financial centre would be to humiliate America in the eyes of the world.

�The picture of the famous Twin Towers, the symbol of America and the heart of its financial centre collapsing in full view of the world, would be just the images the terrorist would be looking for,� said a foreign affairs specialist on BBC television.

The World Trade Centre was also subject to a terrorist attack in 1993. Six people were killed then.

US authorities have not yet accused anyone of orchestrating today�s attacks, but bin Laden has already been named by Washington as being the mastermind of the almost simultaneous destruction of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which 224 people died and over 4,000 were wounded. Some of his followers are serving life sentences for those attacks.

The Saudi multi-millionaire, with an unrelenting hatred for the West and specifically the US, was also named as a suspect within hours of a suicide attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden that killed 17 Americans last October.

In the past he has proved untouchable, safe within the rugged terrain of Afghanistan as the �guest� of the Taliban, despite Washington offering a $5 million reward for his capture. The US had launched cruise missiles at what it termed bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan after the embassy attacks, killing some militants but failing to touch the Saudi exile.


Kabul, Sept. 11 : 
Afghanistan�s ruling Taliban launched a fresh offensive today as the chief of the rival forces against it said their legendary military chief Ahmad Shah Masood had been seriously wounded in an assassination attempt.

Amid rumours that Masood had actually been killed in the Sunday attack, President Burhanuddin Rabbani said he had named intelligence chief General Fahim to stand in for the guerrilla leader and doctors were recommending he be taken to Europe for treatment. Rabbani told Reuters by satellite telephone from northern Afghanistan that Masood was under treatment in a hospital in the area and there was no danger to his life.

�Since the extent of the blast was severe ... doctors have barred him from speaking for some time,� Rabbani said.

�He can walk to some extent and eat and the doctors� advice was to send him to a European country for further treatment,� Rabbani said, adding: �He is fine.�

With the Taliban denying any role in Sunday�s assassination attempt on Ahmad Shah Masood, his opposition alliance reported a fresh push by Taliban forces to dislodge its fighters from positions north of the capital Kabul.

Iran�s state-run television announced that neighbouring states who remain wary of the Taliban�s purist Islamic rule.


London, Sept. 11 : 
The deadly terrorist attacks against the US sent world gold and crude oil prices rocketing as European stock markets went into a tailspin.

While gold prices in London rose sharply by $20 to $290 an ounce, oil jumped up by over $3 to breach the $31 a barrel mark amid apprehensions that the crude price could escalate up to $40 per barrel.

The upsurge in prices of yellow metal and black gold could severely impact India which imports about 600 tonnes of gold annually and over 70 million tonnes of crude a year. Gold is expected to open in Indian markets around Rs 5000 per 10 grams as against today�s closing of Rs 4400 per 10 grams, market analysts said.

Crude prices over $30 per barrel are bad news for India, analysts said, adding that every dollar rise in crude oil prices result in an additional burden of Rs 250 crore on the oil pool account, which was estimated at Rs 12,500 crore at the end of the last fiscal.

European benchmark indices fell more than six percent and traders testified to mayhem on dealing room floors as news spread that the hijacked planes had ploughed into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Oil prices surged on fears of an escalation of the West Asia conflict, potentially sparking US retaliation. �People are linking this to West Asia. In this situation, people are buying the oils and selling everything else, especially stocks with a US exposure and the insurers and banks,� said a trader. �One certainty is the oil price will be high, so they have bought oil stocks. Also, there will be insurance claims, so they have been sold off.� London Brent blend futures hit a peak of $31.05 a barrel, the highest price since December last year. At 2.50 pm GMT, when London�s International Petroleum Exchange suspended traded for an hour.

Analysts feared Brent heading back to the $35-40 a barrel range in the aftermath of the attacks, a trend that is likely to adversely affect net oil importing countries like India. They say oil stocks could consolidate sharp gains based on expectations of a forceful US reply to the strikes.

The London stock market fell sharply as stunned investors dumped shares after attacks on US financial and political targets. Appalled investors drove the FTSE 100 index of leading shares to a fresh three-year low of 4,746 points, reacting to television pictures of a burning and collapsing World Trade Center and columns of smoke rising over Washington.

Frankfurt exchange evacuated

The Frankfurt stock exchange was evacuated today after receiving a bomb threat. A spokesman for Deutsche Boerse, the market�s operator, said employees were told to leave its two buildings in Frankfurt while trade was halted for the day. Eyewitnesses said later the alarm was called off at the bourse�s historic building in central Frankfurt. There was no immediate information on what the security situation was at the other bigger site.    

London, Sept. 11: 
Britain stopped all civilian flights over central London as prominent buildings in the city such as the Canary Wharf, the London Stock Exchange and the Lloyds Tower were evacuated.

The Canary Wharf building dominates the London skyline and is the highest building in the London. It is in the heavily built-up London Docklands area, which was developed under then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The nerve-centre of London�s financial centre, the Stock Exchange, and the multi-storey Lloyds building was also evacuated.

London tubes started dealing with an early rush hour as thousands of office workers were sent home early.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain stood �shoulder to shoulder� with Washington. �This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life,� he said.

Blair was joined by Palestinian and Israeli leaders in condemning the devastating attacks.

�I send my condolences, the condolences of the Palestinian people to American President Bush and his government and to the American people for this terrible act,� Palestinian President Yasser Arafat told reporters in Gaza.

�We completely condemn this serious operation...We were completely shocked. It�s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable.�

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed deep sympathy to the American people �in connection with this terrorist act, this terrible tragedy�. President Jacques Chirac expressed outrage and assured the US of France�s support and sympathy.

Berlin said it was shocked and said Germany�s security council was convening, chaired by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. German air traffic authorities said all European flights to the US had been suspended.

Israeli defence minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel�s Army Radio it was �simply a tragedy�.

�I sympathise with the American people,� he said. �It�s simply a terrible thing.�

In Brussels, Chris Patten, European Commissioner for external affairs, said: �We are all watching events with absolute horror. Our prayers and deepest sympathies go out to our friends in the United States.�

The US embassy in Rome sent its staff home early today after the attacks.

�The charge d�affaires has decided to send staff home early. Our level of security is high,� an embassy source said.

The Rome embassy was evacuated in January after what was called �an indication of a potential terrorist attack�.


New York, Sept. 11: 
In the chaos following the destruction of the World Trade Center, people who had escaped from the giant office buildings ran northward, ghostlike in their coatings of white plaster dust, many crying and shouting.

Four blocks north, outside Stuyvesant High School, others simply stood and stared. �This is the most horrifying thing I�ve ever experienced,� said Jim Zamparelli, 54, as he stood near the school just after the southern tower collapsed, watching the northern tower burn. �Look � Oh my God, look � there�s a person falling. I can�t watch. Don�t watch.

�Oh my God,� he cried, �Oh My God, as we�re talking that whole tower is falling. Run!�

Those who did look saw great chunks of the building falling off. Just before the first tower collapsed, a helicopter hovered close to the tower, as if to try to rescue people clinging to the window ledges. But it pulled sharply upward and away just as the tower fell. Before the collapse, bystanders saw a jet approach the buildings.

�I saw this plane screaming overhead,� said David Blackford, a Manhattan resident who as walking to work at 8.45 am. �I thought it was too low; I thought it wasn�t going to clear the tower.�

He saw it slam into the side of the building, he said, and �The jets on each side of the plane blew up. You could see the concussion move up the building.�

From the World Financial Center, another tall office building across the street to the west of the Trade Towers, employees watched out the windows in shock as the building fell. Angelo Echevaria, 49, said he had to prod fellow workers who were frozen with fear, urging them to evacuate. Once outside, Echevaria said: �I was walking by the Winter Garden, and then there was this huge noise. Then there was all this paper falling around me. The building just sank down on itself, and tilted over. Then it all turned black; the smoke was all around me, you couldn�t see at all.�

Scurrying west, toward the Hudson River, Echevaria met an elderly woman and grabbed her to help her flee. He said they crouched under a marble bench near the water�s edge, and he held her nose to the side of his shirt so she could breathe through the fabric, filtering out the smoke and dust. �The dust was all over, you couldn�t hide from it,� he said.

�I looked down at my feet and it seemed like it was 10 inches deep, exactly was like a snowstorm.�

Inside the southern tower, Jessica Escalera, 22, a mailroom worker on the 39th floor, had just finished breakfast at her desk when �the floor went up.�

�It swelled up and then swayed back and forth,� she said. �I thought it was an earthquake or a bomb. We were all panicking; we didn�t know what to do.�

She said everyone ran to the stairwell, which was filled with smoke. On the 9th floor, they met firefighters going up; she said there was water around her feet and smoke around her head.

�I was praying, I was just hoping I would get out alive,� she said. As she finally left the building, she said she passed a body sheared in half. She was about three blocks north when the southern tower fell. Father Paul Engel, 64, was in a health club on the 22d floor, and had just changed into his swim trunks when he felt the building shake. �Then someone came running through the room shouting: �Get out of here,�� he said. �Debris was falling everywhere; plaster was falling into the swimming pool. �

He also escaped by running down the stairs. Students dismissed from Stuyvesant High School were crying and running out of the school, a parade of kids with back packs.

Carlos Perez, Belle Vue hospital�s executive director, said: �We are prepared to handle a full load of patients. Anyone who wants to check on a loved one should go to the hospital.� Long lines of people who wanted to give blood were forming outside the hospital.


Washington, Sept. 11 : 
Panic-stricken Washington pedestrians froze in their tracks when they heard the whir of a plane overhead today after plane attacks demolished New York�s World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.

�I�m totally freaked out. Hearing the plane going over my head was frightening,� Elissa Brainard, 29, said as she lined up to get her car out of a parking garage and make her way home through gridlocked streets.

Emergency sirens blared across the city and tens of thousands of anxious workers flooded out of evacuated buildings near the White House and elsewhere.

�It�s like watching a disaster movie unfold. I don�t think we will ever see anything like this again in our lifetime,� said Joseph Lackey, who works in a government building across from the White House.

Lackey and scores of others huddled over a blaring radio at a vendor�s stand several blocks from the White House, gasping with horror as the depth of the attacks unfolded. Police herded bewildered pedestrians further away from the White House as rumors abounded about another hijacked plane heading for the city.

�I feel like they are getting closer and closer with every minute,� said Leroy Hall, a World Bank worker. Many bystanders said they felt like �sitting ducks� just waiting for the next attack to take place. �We are all sitting ducks here. We can�t get out of the city. If they want to bomb the city we are all just waiting,� one federal employee said.

She said many employees in her building had frantically tried to get hold of their children at schools or day care centers across the city to make sure they were safe. Drivers ran red lights and sped across intersections, sending pedestrians scattering in a bid to get out of the city. Police near the White House tried to direct traffic, but a few blocks away chaos reigned, thwarting the efforts of emergency vehicles.

Wailing sirens from fire engines, police patrols and ambulances mingled with car horns, whistles and human cries.

�Everything is going crazy. People are getting so stressed out,� one office worker said.

Pedestrians hurried away from the federal quarter and clutched cellular telephones to their ears, desperately trying to reach loved ones. But overloaded cellular telephone networks seemed to be disrupted and people began to line up at public phones.

�I�m terrified. We tried to call on the cell phone but they weren�t working,� office assistant Val Thornton said. Thornton, whose commuter bus takes her past the Pentagon to her Virginia home, did not know how she would get out of the city. �There�s just too much upheaval in the world for this not to have happened at some point,� said Fred Tate, a project manager in a building near the White House.

Another federal employee, Ingrid Chichester, said she was frightened over what might happen in the capital but her real concerns were in New York where her sister worked in one of the World Trade Center towers.

�My sister, Laura Glenn, is a secretary in the twin towers and I haven�t been able to get hold of her. I am just so scared about what might have happened to her,� said Chichester, choking back tears.

When his building was evacuated, Roger Connor had been chairing a meeting of Christians, Jews and Muslims about how to help poor people in the US.

Connor, struggling up a street on crutches, said he refused to be deterred by the attacks. �Our original meeting place was close to the White House so we had to evacuate but we�re moving to a different office because our meeting is going to continue,� he said.


London, Sept 11: 
A rare collection of Amrita Shergill�s paintings went on display on Thursday at the prestigious Ernst Museum in Budapest, Hungary. It is the first exhibition of her works outside India.

Jointly organised by the governments of India and Hungary, the exhibition celebrated the works of the artist, who is of Indo-Hungarian origin, and whose work is influenced by both cultures. It also provided a platform for Shergill�s Hungarian relatives to meet their Indian counterparts at the glittering opening ceremony today.

The exhibition features 25 of Shergill�s works from her Ecole de Beaux Arts phase, including portraits, still lifes, nudes and studio pictures, plein-air paintings from the Hungarian phase, and her later paintings inspired by Mughal and Basoli miniatures, Ajanta frescoes and the Matelcheri Palace murals.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Hungarian foreign minister Janos Martonyi and Indian ambassador to Budapest Lakshmi Puri.

Special Cabinet permission was required to transport Shergill�s paintings outside India as they are considered national treasures.

Shergill was named Amrita in India and Dalma in Hungary. Her mother Marie Antoinette travelled to Budapest to give birth to the artist. Her Indian experience was greatly influenced by her Indologist uncle Erwin Baktay and she married her Hungarian childhood sweetheart, Victor Egan.

Though most of her short life was spent in India, many formative phases were owed to her stay in Hungary.

�Through the exhibition, we hope to make known, as never before, her legacy of Indo-Hungarian art, kinship and affinity amongst Hungarian and Indian peoples,� said Puri at the inaugural function.

�Her pioneering role in bringing to bear the influence of post-impressionism and neo-realism that characterised European art between the two World Wars and creatively combining them with Pan-Indian elements and vitality was worthy of recognition,� he added.

Martonyi affirmed the greatness of Shergill as an artist, and said her legacy was not only an Indo-Hungarian one but also an Indo-European one.

The exhibition brought together Hungarian and Indian relatives of the artist. Artist Vivian Sundaram, who is the son of Amrita�s sister, Indira, was present with his own exhibition of photomontages. Vivian�s sister Naveena, who lives in Germany, came down for the occasion.

Mrs Baktay, Shergill�s aunt, and Gottesman, Shergill�s cousin, were also there as were relatives of her husband, Victor.

Art historian Geeta Kapur presented a special lecture-cum-slide show on Shergill�s life and works.




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