America pauses to commemorate 20th anniversary of 9/11

During the ceremony six moments of silence were held, marking when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93. (AFP)
During the ceremony six moments of silence were held, marking when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93. (AFP)
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Updated 12 September 2021

America pauses to commemorate 20th anniversary of 9/11

During the ceremony six moments of silence were held, marking when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93. (AFP)
  • Ceremonies were held at the three locations struck by the terrorist-hijacked commercials planes
  • Former President George W. Bush, who was in office when the terrorist attacks took place, also spoke at the Shanksville site

CHICAGO: Americans paused on Saturday at 8:46 a.m. (New York time) to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took the lives of 2,977 people on Sept. 11, 2001. The start-time reflects the moment when the first hijacked commercial plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Ceremonies were held at the three locations struck by the terrorist-hijacked commercials planes — in New York where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed; at the Pentagon, the heart of America’s military; and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers fought the terrorists and forced the plane to crash before it could hit one of its believed targets, the White House or the US Congress.

Every major American television station broadcast the commemorations live but it was clear that despite the nation coming together to mourn, the divisive political polarization that has kept America divided could not be bridged even by one of the nation’s greatest tragedies.

Americans watched as President Joe Biden and his wife, former President Barack Obama and his wife, and former President Bill Clinton, all wearing COVID-19 face masks, were escorted to the front of the ceremony at the 1,776 foot tall “One World Trade Center” built where the Twin Towers once stood. The height of the new building reflects the year the Declaration of Independence was issued, 1776.

Biden did not speak at the ceremonies but did release a video the evening before expressing his feelings, saying “20 years after Sept. 11, 2001, we commemorate the 2,977 lives we lost and honor those who risked and gave their lives. As we saw in the days that followed, unity is our greatest strength. It’s what makes us who we are — and we can’t forget that.”

Former President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit “Ground Zero” in New York later.

Vice President Kamala Harris was present at the Shanksville ceremonies, where she noted the tragedy suffered by “backlash victims” that took place in the weeks and months after Sept. 11, and then flew to the Pentagon to join President Biden.

Former President George W. Bush, who was in office when the terrorist attacks took place, also spoke at the Shanksville site. Bush noted how Americans reached out to embrace “people of the Muslim faith” after Sept. 11, but he acknowledged the political polarization that has gripped American politics 20 years later.

“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient united people,” Bush said.

“When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own. Maligned force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument and every argument into a clash of cultures. So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment.”

The New York commemorations featured the New York Police Department Pipes and Drums band playing “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a US folk song from the 1850s, and the national anthem. Relatives of the 2,977 victims who died that day read the names of each victim, pausing to offer remembrances of those they had lost.

The ceremonies, organized by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, included six “moments of silence” to acknowledge the times that the two World Trade Center towers was struck and fell, and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 near Shanksville.

Across America, local governments held 9/11 commemorations, all highlighted by a bell-tolling ceremony — sounding the bell which is rung when a firefighter dies in the line of service. A total of 344 firefighters and 77 police officers died in the terrorist attacks.

Of the 2,977 victims, not including the 19 suicide hijackers, 2,605 were US citizens, and 372 were non-US citizens from more than 90 countries.

Nearly every major Arab and Muslim American body issued statements expressing their commemoration solidarity as the nation remembered, including the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

“First and foremost, we remember the nearly three thousand innocent victims who perished on that day, and the hundreds of thousands more who lost their lives in the senseless wars that followed. We must also remember the victims of hate crimes who were killed in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks — individuals were attacked simply because they looked Arab or Middle Eastern,” the ADC statement said This referred to nearly two dozen individuals murdered in hate crimes in the weeks and months after Sept. 11.

“Twenty years later it’s time for America to acknowledge that Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians faced serious and significant backlash immediately after the attacks. Our community members were targeted simply because of their perceived race or national origin. It was only a few days after 9/11 when Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, was murdered in Mesa, Arizona – the first 9/11 backlash fatality.”


Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad

Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad
Updated 16 sec ago

Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad

Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad
  • Outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party wants its leader released from prison, French envoy expelled

ISLAMABD: Authorities blocked several thoroughfares in the Pakistani capital on Friday after the banned religious party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan began a march on the Pakistani capital to force the government to release its top leader and expel the French envoy to Islamabad.

TLP has been protesting about the incarceration of it chief, Saad Rizvi, and demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in France last year.

After Rizvi’s arrest in April, violent demonstrations by TLP supporters erupted in major Pakistani cities. Six policemen were killed and more than 800 people were injured, according to official figures, in protests that lasted a week.

Protesters are marching from Lahore, Punjab province, where the TLP leadership is based.

Authorities have partially shut down the country’s capital and other major cities by blocking major roads and arteries with shipping containers after the TLP leadership on Thursday threatened to march on Islamabad and stage a sit-in until their demands were met.

“Our march has started now from Lahore to Islamabad,” Saddam Bukhari, a TLP spokesperson, told Arab News on Friday afternoon. “Thousands of people are accompanying us, and we will reach Islamabad to register our protest.”

Islamabad and adjacent Rawalpindi have already deployed heavy contingents of police at and around the Faizabad Interchange — a junction between the twin cities.

“Everything is normal so far in Islamabad,” Zia-ul-Qamar, an Islamabad police spokesperson, told Arab News. “The riot police and other law enforcement personnel are deployed in the city to maintain law and order.”

The Lahore High Court recently declared Rizvi’s detention as illegal while approving a petition filed by his uncle against his continued incarceration.

The Punjab government, however, filed an appeal against the court’s verdict, saying the bench had not considered the intent and purpose of putting the TLP leader’s name on a list of proscribed individuals and entities to ensure the maintenance of public order.

The Punjab government also said it had intelligence reports that TLP activists were planning a major protest rally in November and were waiting for Rizvi’s release.

Founded in August 2015, the TLP has made the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad central to its politics. The party has built a wide base of support in recent years, rallying around cases of blasphemy, which are punishable by death in Pakistan.

It was banned following April’s protests.

Rizvi became the leader of TLP in November last year after the death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi.

Related


Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting
Updated 4 min 6 sec ago

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting
  • The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects.

The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019.

He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Thursday.

Ambulance personnel administered first aid but he died at the scene, Stockholm police spokeswoman Towe Hagg told AFP.

Police have opened a murder investigation.

“We are actively working to figure out why it happened and who can be behind it,” Hagg said.

In line with usual practice, the police have not yet confirmed the identity of the victim. But Sweden’s mainstream media identified him as Einar, whose full name is Nils Kurt Erik Einar Gronberg.

Many of Einar’s songs reference a life of crime, including drugs and weapons. He had public feuds with rival artist Yasin, who in July was jailed for 10 months for his role in a planned kidnapping of Einar in 2020.

The plan was ultimately aborted, but Einar was abducted several weeks later without Yasin’s involvement.

Einar was beaten, robbed, photographed in humiliating conditions and blackmailed, according to prosecutors.

The kidnapping was part of a broader case involving 30 suspects in a criminal network accused of a variety of crimes.

Among the suspects was another rapper, Haval Khalil, who was sentenced in July to two-and-a-half years in prison for complicity in the kidnapping and who has also had public spats with Einar.

The verdict was appealed and the case is currently being heard by the Svea Court of Appeal, which is expected to go on until December.

Einar had been called to attend the trial as a plaintiff, but was not planning to do so, his lawyer Rodney Humphreys told AFP.

“The same way he didn’t attend the trial in the district court,” Humphreys said.

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported Friday that Einar was living with a “price on his head” after a series of threats against him which had escalated recently.

Einar himself was one of several suspects arrested for a stabbing at a restaurant in central Stockholm earlier this month.

The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work.

He started his career posting songs to social media, and broke through in 2019 releasing “Katten i trakten” (The cat in the area), which hit No. 1 on Sweden’s singles chart.

He won several music awards, including Swedish Grammis.

Fans and friends expressed their grief on Einar’s social media.

“Einar was a real brother to me and I will miss him so much. We just released our first record last week and it feels so strange since I spoke to him just a day ago,” producer Trobi wrote on Instagram.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that “it is a young life that has been lost, and I understand that he meant a lot to many young people”.

“It’s tragic that another life has been lost,” he told news agency TT.

Another lesser-known Swedish rapper, 23-year-old Rozh Shamal, was also killed in a 2019 gangland shooting.

Sweden has in recent years struggled to rein in rising shootings and bombings -- usually settlings of scores by gangs and organised crime involved in drug trafficking.

As of October 15, 273 shootings had been recorded with 40 people dead so far in 2021, according to police statistics.

During 2020, 47 people were killed in 366 shootings in the country of 10.3 million people.


Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis
Updated 22 October 2021

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis
  • ICRC has since increased its efforts in the country while other organisations were also stepping up, Director General Robert Mardini said
  • The UN on Thursday announced it had set up a fund to provide cash directly to Afghans

DUBAI: The Red Cross on Friday urged the international community to engage with Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, saying that aid groups on their own would be unable to stave off a humanitarian crisis.
Afghanistan has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign assistance following the collapse of the Western-backed government and return to power by the Taliban in August.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has since increased its efforts in the country while other organizations were also stepping up, Director General Robert Mardini said.
But he told Reuters that support from the international community, who had so far taken a cautious approach in engaging with the Taliban, was critical to providing basic services.
“Humanitarian organizations joining forces can only do so much. They can come up with temporary solutions.”
The United Nations on Thursday announced it had set up a fund to provide cash directly to Afghans, which Mardini said would solve the problem for three months.
“Afghanistan is a compounded crisis that is deteriorating by the day,” he said, citing decades of conflict compounded by the effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mardini said 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 39 million population were facing severe malnutrition and that 18 million people in the country need humanitarian assistance or protection.
The Taliban expelled many foreign aid groups when it was last in power from 1996-2001 but this time has said it welcomes foreign donors and will protect the rights of their staff.
But the hard-line Islamists, facing criticism it has failed to protect rights, including access to education for girls, have also said aid should not be tied to conditions.
“No humanitarian organization can compensate or replace the economy of a country,” Mardini said.


UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist
Updated 22 October 2021

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist
  • Michael Nugent, 38, celebrated the Christchurch mosque massacre and distributed bomb-making manuals online
  • Previous sentence of 42 months did not reflect the “gravity” of his crimes, judges said on Friday

LONDON: A convicted white-supremacist terrorist who shared bomb-making instructions online and celebrated the Christchurch mosque massacre has had 18 months added to his jail term by appeal-court judges in London.

Michael Nugent, 38, shared on the Telegram messaging app manuals that showed how to create homemade bombs and firearms, and described the attacks on worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand in March 2019 as a “game-changer.”

In June a court in Kingston, London, convicted him of terror offenses and jailed him for 42 months. But on Friday his sentence was increased to five years after a challenge by the UK’s attorney general, who argued that the penalty was not harsh enough given the seriousness of the crimes.

Nugent was said to have “honored” right-wing terrorists such as Brenton Tarrant, who shot and killed 51 people and injured 40 when he attacked the mosques in Christchurch. Tarrant live-streamed the atrocity on Facebook.

The Independent newspaper reported that Nugent created a video celebrating the attacks to mark the first anniversary of the outrage. In his diary, he wrote that ethnic minorities should be “sent home” and “sterilized,” adding: “Terrorism is the only way out of it.”

Judges said on Friday that the 42-month sentence Nugent was handed in June did not reflect the “obvious gravity” of his online radicalization efforts, which included running Telegram groups that could host up to 200,000 members.

A prosecutor said: “This channel attracted and became a safe haven for anyone who wished to post messages expressing and encouraging extreme racial hatred and violence toward black people.”

Nugent was apprehended after he passed instructions for making bombs and firearms to an undercover police officer who joined his channel.

His defense tried to argue that the terrorist’s actions were a product of deteriorating mental health, but Richard Smith, head of London’s Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Nugent freely shared his abhorrent extremist views with others over a messaging app and he passed on manuals detailing how to produce deadly weapons and explosive devices. This is another case which shows how harmful online extremism is.”


Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19
Updated 22 October 2021

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19
  • Foreign tourists seeking sun and sand are the driver of Greece's tourism industry
  • Pandemic travel restrictions kept most away in 2020 and battered the sector

ATHENS: The number of foreign tourists arriving in Greece has rebounded strongly this year, central bank data released Friday showed, but the key tourism sector still remains far below pre-pandemic levels.
Foreign tourists seeking sun and sand are the driver of Greece’s tourism industry, which accounts for a fifth of the overall economy, but pandemic travel restrictions kept most away in 2020 and battered the sector.
Greek central bank data showed that the number of tourist arrivals has jumped 80 percent this year to over 8.6 million.
Meanwhile, spending by tourists during the first eight months of the year has shot up by over 135 percent to nearly 6.6 billion euros ($7.7 billion), the Bank of Greece said in a statement.
But those figures are still far off the level in 2019, before the pandemic, when some 21.8 million tourists spent 13.2 billion euros.
Ahead of the peak summer tourism season, Greece ran a major campaign to voluntarily vaccinate most residents if its Aegean islands, its most popular travel destinations, to help lure back foreign tourists.
Most of the arrivals came from Germany, Britain, France and the United States.
Greece’s economy contracted by 9.0 percent in 2020, due in no small part to the drop in tourists.
The government expects the economy to rebound 6.1 percent this year and grow by 4.5 percent in 2022.