US marks 9/11 with somber tributes, new monument to victims

A U.S. flag that few over the World Trade Center is presented during ceremonies marking the 17th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York, U.S., September 11, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2018
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US marks 9/11 with somber tributes, new monument to victims

NEW YORK: Americans were commemorating 9/11 with somber tributes, volunteer projects and a new monument to victims Tuesday, after a year when two attacks demonstrated the enduring threat of terrorism in the nation’s biggest city.
Margie Miller was among the thousands of 9/11 victims’ relatives, survivors, rescuers and others who gathered on a misty Tuesday morning at the memorial plaza where the World Trade Center’s twin towers once stood. She came to the site from her home in suburban Baldwin, as she does 10 or so times a year, to remember her husband, Joel Miller. Only a few fragments of his remains were recovered.
“To me, he is here. This is my holy place,” his widow said before the ceremony began a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m., the time when the trade center was hit by the first of two terrorist-piloted planes. Victims’ relatives who had brought signs bearing photos of their loved ones wordlessly held them high.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence headed to the two other places where hijacked planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, in the deadliest terror attack on American soil.
The president and first lady Melania Trump flew to Pennsylvania to join an observance at the Sept. 11 memorial in a field near Shanksville, where a new “Tower of Voices” was dedicated Saturday. Pence is attending a ceremony at the Pentagon. Trump, a Republican and native New Yorker, took the occasion of last year’s anniversary to issue a stern warning to extremists that “America cannot be intimidated.”
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on 9/11, when international terrorism hit home in a way it previously hadn’t for many Americans. Sept. 11 still shapes American policy, politics and everyday experiences in places from airports to office buildings, even if it’s less of a constant presence in the public consciousness after 17 years.
A stark reminder came not long after last year’s anniversary: A truck mowed down people, killing eight, on a bike path within a few blocks of the World Trade Center on Halloween.
In December, a would-be suicide bomber set off a pipe bomb in a subway passageway near Times Square, authorities said. They said suspects in both attacks were inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.
The recent attacks in New York, as well as terror attacks elsewhere, were on Miller’s mind as she arrived Tuesday.
“You don’t want to live in fear, but it’s very real,” she said.
Debra Sinodinos, who lost her firefighter cousin Peter Carroll and works near the trade center, said she tries not to let the recent attacks unnerve her.
“You have to move on,” she said as she headed into the anniversary ceremony with her extended family. “Otherwise, you’d live in fear.”
The 9/11 commemorations are by now familiar rituals, centered on reading the names of the dead. But each year at ground zero, victims’ relatives infuse the ceremony with personal messages of remembrance, inspiration and concern.
For Nicholas Haros Jr., that concern is officials who make comparisons to 9/11 or invoke it for political purposes.
“Stop. Stop,” pleaded Haros, who lost his 76-year-old mother, Frances. “Please stop using the bones and ashes of our loved ones as props in your political theater. Their lives, sacrifices and deaths are worth so much more. Let’s not trivialize them.”
This year’s anniversary comes as a heated midterm election cycle kicks into high gear. But there have long been some efforts to separate the solemn anniversary from politics.
The group 9/11 Day, which promotes volunteering on an anniversary that was declared a national day of service in 2009, routinely asks candidates not to campaign or run political ads for the day. Organizers of the ground zero ceremony allow politicians to attend, but they’ve been barred since 2011 from reading names or delivering remarks.
The names are read by victims’ loved ones, some of them not yet born when the attacks happened.
“Even though I never met you, I’ll never forget you,” Isabella Del Corral said of her grandfather, Joseph Piskadlo.
Hours after the ceremony, two powerful light beams will soar into the night sky from lower Manhattan in the annual “Tribute in Light.”
Memorials to 9/11 continue to grow at Shanksville, where the Tower of Voices will eventually include a wind chime for each of the 40 people killed there, and ground zero, where work is to begin soon on a pathway honoring rescue and recovery workers.
It will serve as a way to honor those who became sick or died from exposure to toxins released when the Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed. Researchers have documented elevated rates of respiratory ailments, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses among people who spent time in the rubble.
About 38,500 people have applied to a compensation fund, and over $3.9 billion in claims have been approved.
Meanwhile, rebuilding continues. A subway station destroyed on 9/11 finally reopened Saturday. In June, doors opened at the 80-story 3 World Trade Center, one of several rebuilt office towers that have been constructed or planned at the site. A performing arts center is rising.
However, work was suspended in December on replacing a Greek Orthodox church crushed in the attacks; the project hit financial problems.
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Associated Press writers Stephen Groves and Karen Matthews contributed to this report.


Security forces free Mali official from extremists

Updated 46 min 53 sec ago
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Security forces free Mali official from extremists

  • A Malian jounalist who was kidnapped was also freed
  • A peace agreement signed in 2015 was aimed at restoring stability, but the accord has failed to stop violence by extremist militants

BAMAKO, Mali: A senior government official and a journalist abducted by suspected extremists in Mali have been freed, a security source told AFP on Tuesday.
Makan Doumbia, the prefect of Tenenkou commune in central Mali, “was freed Monday thanks to an action by state security,” the source told AFP.
Doumbia, the most senior government representative in the commune, was abducted in the Mopti region on May 8 last year.
He is now being treated in intensive care in the capital Bamako, said the source, who refused to comment on claims that Doumbia was freed under a prisoner exchange.
A son of the official, who declined to give his full name, also confirmed the prefect had been released.
“I was able to speak to my father. He is very tired. But the most important thing is that he is free. I am very happy,” said the son.
Malian journalist Issiaka Tamboura, who was kidnapped in central Mali in December, was also released and taken to hospital in Bamako, security and media sources said.
However, elsewhere in the Mopti region, four hostages taken by suspected extremists were killed at Toguere-Koumbe last week, according to Kisal, a rights group for nomadic communities.
Kisal announced on its Facebook page Monday that those killed were members of the Bozo ethnic group.
A security source confirmed that “four civilian hostages of terrorists” were found dead at Toguere at the weekend.
Extremist militias linked to Al-Qaeda seized the north of Mali in 2012, but were pushed back by French troops the following year.
A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability, but the accord has failed to stop violence by extremist militants — who have also staged attacks in neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.