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US commemorates 9/11 victims on 15th anniversary of deadliest terror strikes

Students of a university in New York placed flags in the ground in tribute to the victims who lost their lives. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP New York, NY, United States Sep 11, 2016, 04.33 AM (IST)

The United States today marks the 15th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people when al-Qaeda suicide bombers crashed four passenger jets into the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and a field in Shanksville. 

While speaking during his weekly radio and online address on the eve of September 11 terror attacks, US President Barack Obama urged Americans to remain united on Saturday. He also vowed that his government will keep doing everything to protect the homeland, and insisted how America responds in the face of terrorism matters.

The 9/11 attack victims will be remembered at a solemn service at Ground Zero in New York on the site of the rebuilt World Trade Center, while Obama will address a ceremony at the Pentagon.

"This weekend, we honour their memory once more. We stand with the survivors who still bear the scars of that day," Obama said during the weekly address.

Nineteen al-Qaeda suicide bombers hijacked four passenger jets on September 11, 2001 crashing them into the Twin Towers.  It was the first foreign attack on the US mainland in almost two centuries and sparked US-led invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), where war rages on more than a decade later.
 

"This weekend, we honour their memory once more. We stand with the survivors who still bear the scars of that day," Obama said during the weekly address.



The 15th anniversary comes with the United States in the midst of a divisive presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton, who was New York senator at the time of the attacks, and Manhattan tycoon Donald Trump.  Both the candidates are expected to attend the New York ceremony. 

Obama has on several occasions also denounced Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's bombastic rhetoric towards Muslims.

After the December shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California, Trump had called for a temporary ban on the entry of Muslims to the country.

The President, however, pointed out that US cannot give in to those who would divide it. "It's our diversity, our welcoming of all talent, our treating of everybody fairly no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, or faith that's part of what makes our country great. It's what makes us resilient. And if we stay true to those values, we'll uphold the legacy of those we've lost, and keep our nation strong and free," Obama was quoted as saying by abc.net.au.

During the first moment of silence at 8:46 am, the time when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower, houses of worship in New York have been asked to toll their bells. Obama will observe a moment of silence at the White House before addressing a memorial ceremony at the Pentagon.

Here is the timeline of the events of the fateful morning which reshaped the course of US history, as reported by AFP:

  • 8:46 am: The first strike

An American Airlines Boeing 767 making a Boston-Los Angeles connection with 92 people on board, including five hijackers, smashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, leaving a giant hole in the building's facade.
 

  • 9:03 am: Second tower hit

A United Airlines Boeing 767 making a Boston-Los Angeles connection with 65 people on board, including five hijackers, hits the South Tower of the WTC, sparking a massive explosion.

  • 9:30 am: Bush speaks


Then US president George W Bush, in Sarasota, Florida, calls the blasts "an apparent terrorist attack." He orders "a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed these acts" . He assures he will immediately return to Washington.

  • 9:37 am: Pentagon hit


An American Airlines Boeing 757 making a Washington Dulles-Los Angeles connection with 64 people on board - including five hijackers - smashes into the Pentagon in suburban Washington, setting off two explosions.

  • 9:42 am: Planes grounded

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) orders the cancellation of all commercial flights in the United States.

  • 9:59 am: South Tower collapses

The WTC's South Tower, hit 56 minutes earlier, collapses in a huge cloud of smoke and dust.

  • 10:03 am: Crash in Pennsylvania

A United Airlines Boeing 757 traveling from Newark to San Francisco with 44 people on board - including four hijackers - crashes into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew apparently fought with the hijackers.

  • 10:28 am: North Tower collapses

The north tower of the WTC collapses, an hour and 42 minutes after it was struck. A huge cloud of dust blankets lower Manhattan.

(WION with inputs from agencies) 

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