The 11th of September 2001 will forever remain a memorable day in the history of the United States. The 9/11 attack was a series of suicide attacks orchestrated by an Islamic extremist organization; al-Qaeda against the United States. It is considered the deadliest attack against the US in its history on its soil.
The September 11 attack carried out by 19 militants is described as the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the world.
The hijacking of 4 airlines and subsequently flying them into high rise buildings in America led to the death of thousands 2,977 and over 25,000 injuries and the destruction of properties worth billions of dollars.
According to reports released by security investigators 19 terrorists were involved in this operation targeting New York, Washington DC, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon; all 19 terrorists died.
The United States police and fire departments lost most of their personnel as about 400 police officers and firefighters were killed
The major financier and organizer of the 9/11 attack was a man named Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda. Though, he initially denied knowledge or involvement in the attack, investigations revealed tapes where he alluded to the involvement of al-Qaeda in the attack.
Osama bin Laden came into the limelight when he travelled to Afghanistan in 1979 to organize Arab fighters against the Soviets invasion. It was in Afghanistan that Osama became destructively radicalized under the supervision of Ayman al-Zawahiri. For his terrorist activities, Osama was placed on the List FBI’s Most Wanted.
From then on Osama became a motivator and facilitator of attacks against America and their assets around the world. Osama had a naïve perception about the United States strength militarily and considered them weak relative to other world powers. Successful attacks against American military bases in Lebanon, withdrawal of American troops from Somalia and Vietnam made him come to that conclusion.
His grouse with the United States was the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia and its support to Israel. He inspired many using jihad as an Islamic doctrine and in the process created a large following of radicalized Muslims that later formed al-Qaeda.
Reasons for the 9/11 attack
In a letter Osama wrote November 2002 “Letter to America” he stated his motives for the attacks.
- United States support to Israel
- Pro-American governments in the Middle East.
- Support for Russia against Muslims in Chechnya.
- The presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia
- Sanctions against Iraq.
His belief that the United States was weak, vulnerable and a “paper tiger” embolden him to embark on the mission to destroy the United States. He drew inspiration from the evacuation of American forces from Vietnam (1970), Lebanon (1983) and Somalia (1983) after their forces were attacked and killed in all cases.
This information was given to investigators by one of Osama’s associates Abu Walid al-Masri; an Egyptian as motivation for the attack.
Planning the Attack
The main operational planner and brain behind the 9/11 attack was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a degree holder from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 1986. Khalid became an active member of the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 16 in Kuwait before travelling to the United States. Like Osama, he was part of the jihadist movement that fought against the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in 1979
He had planned to blow up American planes in Asia in the 1990s but was unsuccessful in actualizing this. However, his desire to accomplish his dream was rekindled when he came in contact with Osama bin Laden in 1996 in Afghanistan. He presented his scheme which involved training pilots and personnel who would hijack and crash planes into buildings in America.
Osama a hardline and uncompromising hater of the United States fell in love with the plan. Khalid presented the novel idea, al-Qaeda supplied the personnel, logistics and resources while Osama created the scene that brought about the massive destruction that was witnessed on that day.
In 1998/99 he approved the attack and provided leadership, money, and personnel to execute the plan. His deputy Mohammed Atef was responsible for selecting the target locations, operational support and arranging travel documents for the hijackers.
Reports have it that the men used for this operation received training in the United States and Hamburg in Germany, with regular meetings held in Malaysia. Members of the squad were also recruited from countries around the Middle East. All this was carefully carried out by al-Qaeda with Osama as the head and based in Afghanistan. Money transfers according to security reports to finance the operation came majorly from Dubai.
The most important group that participated in the 9/11 attack was the terrorist cell network based in Hamburg, Germany. The group include Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh; they were selected because they could speak English and were educated in the West.
Years before the attack, these three friends who participated in the hijack had received education and lived in Europe. But the one-time contact Mohammed Atta had with an Islamist militant on a train ride in Germany in 1999 changed his life forever. He together with his friends became radicalized after coming in contact with this Islamist militant. They were thereafter talked into travelling to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda.
They had become disenchanted with the world around them and the frustration and perceived discrimination against Muslims they faced in Europe.
Same 1999 they travelled to Afghanistan in a quest to join al-Qaeda. Isolated from the civilized world they were used to in Europe and their anger against perceived discrimination they became highly radicalized and ready to wage war.
The presence of these new western-educated recruits made Osama and his top advisers reconsider the use of local recruits to execute his plan to bomb America. They realized they were better placed to lead the attack and thus appointed Mohammed Atta the leader of the operation.
Long before the mission was carried out the hijackers mostly from Saudi Arabia had moved to the United States in small groups without arousing any eyebrows from security operatives. The three Hamburg terrorists all took flight training in South Florida at the Huffman Aviation.
Letters written by Atta updating his contacts of their training and preparedness were later discovered. He cloaked and concealed the content of his letters by making it seem as if he was writing to his girlfriend.
Though the United States CIA from its internal security operations knew about an imminent attack against US assets they never envisaged it happening on American soil; Saudi Arabia or Israel was their likeliest guess. They alerted other agencies in the United States including embassies abroad of a possible terrorist attack against them.
Information on certain known terrorists going for flight lessons in the United States got to the FBI; unfortunately, they had no inkling or suspicion as to the purpose of these training. Investigations later revealed the success of the attack was due to a lack of intelligence-sharing among the security operatives.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, 4 commercial airliners that took off from several airports in the United States destined for California were hijacked by Atta and his gang of terrorists. A deliberate effort was made to select large airliners going on long distances; for there will be enough fuel for combustion according to their calculations.
The structures targeted were the North and South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon with the fourth crashing into a field in Pennsylvania as passengers attempted to overcome them.
There are insinuations that the flight was destined for either the White House or the Capitol. The hijackers had been advised to crash the planes into any building if unable to get to the designated targets.
To subdue the passengers the hijackers used tear gas and physical molestation of crew members and passengers. The passengers claimed the hijackers carried bombs but the FBI investigators found no trace of explosives at the crash sites.
The airliners filled with fuel, aided combustion which compromised the structural integrity of the buildings into which they crashed. The North and South Towers collapsed after 102 and 56 minutes respectively destroying many other buildings around them. The Pentagon was partially damaged as the crash affected only the western side of the building.
More than 2900 people died from the attacks of which 265 were on board the planes while more than 6,000 sustained injuries of various degrees. Statistics showed that New York followed by New Jersey had the highest number of those that died. Record also revealed that 90 countries lost at least one citizen in the attacks. The United States lost 411 emergency workers comprising firefighters, police officers and paramedics.
A great number of those that died were trapped in the building as the elevators and staircases were destroyed after the impact. Some jumped from the building to their death or died from burns and smoke inhalation. More bodies were recovered over the next weeks and months eventually bring the number of deaths to more than 6,000.
After the attacks, all flights coming into and within the United States was grounded for three days. Almost immediately the CIA, FBI, NSA and other security outfits sprang into action to identify the perpetrators of the attack. Suspicion fell on Osama.
Though he initially denied any involvement in the attack, videotapes and recordings he made revealed he not only had knowledge of the attacks but also financed its logistics and operations.
The mere suspicion of Islamic terrorists being behind the attack created an atmosphere of hate and harassment towards Muslims and Arabs in America. Mosques and some Hindu temples were reported to have been attacked by disgruntled American citizens. It’s on record that the FBI facilitated the evacuation of about 24 members of Osama bin Laden’s to prevent them from being lynched.
Relief funding was straightaway set up to make available financial assistance to those who survived the attack. The magnitude of the devastation prompted virtually all governments of the world to condemn the attack except the government of Iraq. The government of Iraqi released an official statement stating that the Americans had reaped the fruits of their crimes against humanity.
The military of the United States convinced of Taliban involvement began aerial bombardment of Taliban and al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. This led to the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by the US Army which officially began on October 7, 2001, with Osama bin Laden as the primary target. He was later captured and killed by American forces on May 2, 2011, in Pakistan where he had taken refuge after years of hiding.
The impact on the economy of the United States as well as the world market was unprecedented as the World Trade Towers coordinated business activities cutting across nations. The stock exchange remained closed from September 11 to 17 and within one week after the attacks, the US stock was reported to have lost $1.4 trillion in value.
More than 400,000 jobs were lost in New York City alone with much smaller businesses affected directly by the debris from the collapsed buildings.