WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: As a solemn nation observes the 10th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Pakistan made a feeble attempt on Saturday to reach out to the American public, telling them that it was a victim, not perpetrator of terrorism.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said the attacks had made America stronger. “As a resilient nation, we will carry on,” he told Americans on the eve of the anniversary of the attacks.
Nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. On Sunday, Mr Obama will travel to all three sites to mark the anniversary. Former president George W Bush will join him in New York.
“Yes we face a determined foe, and make no mistake – they will keep trying to hit us again. But as we are showing again this weekend, we remain vigilant,” he said.
Mr Obama also noted that “across the Middle East and North Africa a new generation of citizens is showing that the future belongs to those that want to build, not destroy”.
On Saturday, America’s leaders dedicated a national memorial to the 40 passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Then president Bush, his predecessor Bill Clinton, current Vice President Joe Biden and their spouses joined families of the victims at the dedication.
Several hundred citizens – many in patriotic T-shirts or holding US flags – also paid homage.
Pakistan availed this opportunity to tell the Americans that it was with them in the fight against terrorists “Which country can do more for your peace?” asks an advertisement published in the Wall Street Journal. “Since 2001, a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of the world’s 7 billion.”
Pakistan had first offered this ad to The New York Times but they refused to publish it, forcing Pakistani officials to go to a business newspaper with a specialised but influential readership.
The ad informs the American public that since Sept 11, 2001, 21,672 Pakistani civilians have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in an ongoing fight against terror.
The Pakistani Army also has lost 2,795 soldiers while 8,671 soldiers have been wounded. There have been 3,486 bomb blasts and 283 major suicide attacks.
More than 3.5 million have been displaced while the country has lost $68 billion due to terrorism.
The Pakistani nation is “making sacrifices that statistics cannot reflect”, says a caption above a picture of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was also killed by the terrorists. “The promise of our martyrs lives on,” it adds.
Despite these sacrifices, the ad notes, the Pakistan stays engaged in “the war for world peace”, with 200,000 troops deployed at the frontline and 90,000 soldiers fighting on the Afghan border.
“Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan,” says the advertisement published as an official notice from the government of Pakistan. In New York or Washington, officials further tightened security arrangements on Saturday, deploying hundreds of officers at bus and train stations and in shopping malls.
People carrying bags were stopped and searched while some without bags were also frisked. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles entering New York were searched as drivers waited patiently in lines.
The two cities were at the heart of the Sept 11 attacks and are now on high alert this weekend after the US government received a `credible’ tip that Al Qaeda plans to launch an attack on Washington or New York as the nation marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
“Al Qaeda possibly planned to carry out attacks…including a possible car bomb attack,” said a joint FBI, Homeland Security Intelligence Bulletin.
Al Qaeda may have sent American terrorists or men carrying US travel documents to launch the attack, it added.
The US media quoted intelligence officials as saying that they believed Al Qaeda had dispatched three men, at least two of whom could be US citizens, to detonate a car bomb in one of the cities. Should that mission prove impossible, the attackers have been told to simply cause as much destruction as they could, the officials said.
The tip came from a CIA informant in Pakistan who said the men had been ordered by new Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Sunday by attacking Americans inside America.
Although the tip said the would-be attackers are of Arab descent and may speak Arabic as well as English, US security officials were searching all people, including Americans of European descent.