September 11 attacks

By what time of day did the U.S. National Security Agency and German intelligence agencies intercept communications?

By midday, the U.S. National Security Agency and German intelligence agencies had intercepted communications pointing to Osama bin Laden. Two of the hijackers were known to have travelled with a bin Laden associate to Malaysia in 2000 and hijacker Mohammed Atta had previously gone to Afghanistan. He and others were part of a terrorist cell in Hamburg. One of the members of the Hamburg cell was discovered to have been in communication with Khalid Sheik Mohammed who was identified as a member of al-Qaeda.


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  • Shortly after the attacks, President Bush made a public appearance at Washington, D.C.'s largest Islamic Center and acknowledged the "incredibly valuable contribution" that millions of American Muslims made to their country and called for them "to be treated with respect." Numerous incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Muslims and South Asians were reported in the days following the attacks. Sikhs were also targeted because Sikh males usually wear turbans, which are stereotypically associated with Muslims. There were reports of attacks on mosques and other religious buildings (including the firebombing of a Hindu temple), and assaults on people, including one murder: Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh mistaken for a Muslim, was fatally shot on September 15, 2001, in Mesa, Arizona. Two dozen members of Osama bin Laden's family were urgently evacuated out of the country on a private charter plane under FBI supervision three days after the attacks.

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  • In the South Tower, one stairwell, Stairwell A, was left intact after Flight 175 hit, allowing 14 people located on the floors of impact (including one man who saw the plane coming at him) and four more from the floors above to escape. New York City 9-1-1 operators who received calls from people inside the tower were not well informed of the situation as it rapidly unfolded and as a result, told callers not to descend the tower on their own. In total 630 people died in that tower, fewer than half the number killed in the North Tower. Casualties in the South Tower were significantly reduced because some occupants decided to start evacuating as soon as the North Tower was struck. The failure to evacuate the South Tower fully after the first jet crash into the North Tower was described by USA Today as "one of the day's great tragedies".

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  • In the aftermath of the attacks, tens of thousands of people attempted to flee Afghanistan due to the possibility of a military retaliation by the United States. Pakistan, already home to many Afghan refugees from previous conflicts, closed its border with Afghanistan on September 17, 2001. Approximately one month after the attacks, the United States led a broad coalition of international forces to overthrow the Taliban regime from Afghanistan for their harboring of al-Qaeda. Though Pakistani authorities were initially reluctant to align themselves with the United States against the Taliban, they permitted the coalition access to their military bases, and arrested and handed over to the U.S. over 600 suspected al-Qaeda members.

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  • The attacks were denounced by mass media and governments worldwide. Across the globe, nations offered pro-American support and solidarity. Leaders in most Middle Eastern countries, and Afghanistan, condemned the attacks. Iraq was a notable exception, with an immediate official statement that, "the American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity". The government of Saudi Arabia officially condemned the attacks, but privately many Saudis favored bin Laden's cause. Although Palestinian Authority (PA) president Yasser Arafat also condemned the attacks, there were reports of celebrations of disputed size in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Footage by CNN and other news outlets were suggested to be from 1991, which was later proven to be a false accusation, resulting in a statement being issued by CNN. As in the United States, the aftermath of the attacks saw tensions increase in other countries between Muslims and non-Muslims.

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  • The attacks caused the deaths of 2,996 people (including all 19 hijackers) and injured more than 6,000 others. The death toll included 265 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. Most of those who perished were civilians, with the exception of 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement officers, 55 military personnel, and the 19 terrorists who died in the attacks. After New York, New Jersey lost the most state citizens, with the city of Hoboken having the most New Jersey citizens who died in the attacks. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the September 11 attacks; for example, the 67 Britons who died were more than in any other terrorist attack anywhere as of October¬†2002. The attacks killed about 500 more people than the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and are the deadliest terrorist attacks in world history.

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