11 September 2001>News Stories>Bush Says Attack Was 'First War of the 21st Century'

Bush Says Attack Was 'First War of the 21st Century'
James Barron . NYTimes. 13 September


Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington today.


President Bush today called the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "the first war of the 21st century," and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell named the Islamic militant Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect in engineering them.

Although Islamic extremists have been mentioned as possible suspects in the attacks and State Department officials have privately pointed to Mr. bin Laden in particular, Secretary Powell's statement was the first public accusation by a top administration official.

The president said that winning the war against terrorism is now "the focus" of his administration, and Attorney General John Ashcroft said investigators were making progress in the manhunt for accomplices of the 18 hijackers who commandeered the the jetliners used in the attacks. Mr. Ashcroft said the "number of associates was significant," although he provided no details. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz spoke, too, of a "campaign, not a single action" against terrorists and their sponsors.

In Germany, investigators in Hamburg said two men who had trained at a Florida flight school were among the hijackers killed in the attacks. German officials said Mohamed Atta, 33, and Marwan Alshehhi, 23, had trained at a flight school in Venice, Fla., where F.B.I. investigators have been examining student records. Federal agents in Florida were also looking for at least three other men today after searching homes and car-rental records..

In New York, the police found themselves struggling with bogus threats midday bomb scares emptied Grand Central Terminal and Macy's department store, for example and in Washington, the United States Capitol was evacuated late this afternoon. Representative David E. Bonior of Michigan told a television reporter, "They've got a package that they've been looking at."

About 45 minutes later, Lt. Dan Nichols of the United States Capitol Police said the package was nothing to be concerned about, and the Capitol was reopened.

As rescuers in New York and at the Pentagon continued their somber searches through splayed girders and broken boulders of concrete, the nation began taking small steps toward something approaching normalcy. Airlines began flying again, although with only limited service, after Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta cleared the way for airports to reopen. But heavy security was the rule.

"We have taken every precaution to make sure it is safe to fly in America," President Bush said. "There are beefed-up security in our airports, there's increased presence on the airplanes. Yes, if a family member asked if they should fly, I would say yes."

But flights to the three big New York area airports were halted late this afternoon. A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said there was "F.B.I. activity." F.B.I. spokesmen in New York and Washington said they could not confirm that.

The nation's stock markets made plans to resume trading on Monday after the longest shutdown since the Great Depression, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a national bank holiday in March 1933 to halt bank runs. Today, amid deepening pessimism brought on by the attacks, bond traders pushed the prices of government securities up sharply a sign of the uneasiness of investors, who were seeking a safe haven for their money. The Federal Reserve continued to pump money into the financial system, hoping to reassure investment firms and banks that cash would be available as needed.

And Congress neared agreement on a $20 billion emergency relief and reconstruction package as President Bush declared, "There is a quiet anger in America."

"My resolve is steady and strong about winning this war that has been declared on America," the president said after speaking by telephone with Governor George E. Pataki of New York and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York City. "It's a new kind of war. The government will adjust and this government will call other governments to join us."

Mr. Bush, who went to the Washington Hospital Center this morning to visit survivors of the attack on the Pentagon, said he would go to New York on Friday after attending a prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington.

The White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said that Friday would be a "national day of prayer and remembrance" for those lost in Tuesday's attacks. "The president is asking all Americans at their lunch hours to go to a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a place of their own choosing."

The president called Mr. Pataki and Mr. Giuliani less than an hour after the mayor announced that at least 4,763 people were missing after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, based on "a list that is as inclusive as we can make it." He said that the figure included the passengers and crew members from the two hijacked places that sliced into the quarter-mile-high skyscrapers, as well as thousands of people who worked there and have not been heard from.

The mayor also said that 94 bodies had been found in the smoking wreckage and that 46 had been identified.

But officials were careful to call their work a rescue mission, hoping they would find survivors in the wreckage, and today they did: Five rescue workers initially but apparently incorrectly identified as firefighters were discovered alive in a Fire Department vehicle after they were somehow buried in the debris. Three climbed out and walked away. The two others were taken to Bellevue Hospital.

City officials raised the possibility that additional survivors would be found in the rubble of what used to be two of the world's tallest buildings. Rescue workers have reportedly made contact with one person trapped in a basement of who was using a wireless organizer to send e-mail messages.

Both towers of the World Trade Center collapsed in a blinding storm of soot and ash on Tuesday, and rescue workers were concerned that chunks of the remaining shells of the two towers and of nearby buildings that were damaged by flaming debris could shake loose and tumble to the ground. The top 10 floors of an office building across the street from the World Trade Center buckling this afternoon, and construction engineers said that another nearby building had shifted on its foundation and was being closely watched.

Thousands of people who live nearby waited for word on when they could go home. Some managed to get behind police lines and into their buildings long enough to pick up clothes and other belongings. But officially, at least, a five-square-mile stretch of lower Manhattan remained off limits, although the mayor said, "Our objective today is to get it open.'

He said he wanted to create "a corridor into the Wall Street area" so that the New York Stock Exchange and businesses in the shadow of the World Trade Center could reopen. He also said that at least one and possibly two major highways would remain closed.

The mayor, who has sought out grievance counselors for advice on how to address city residents, urged calm. "Do not over-react," he advised at a news conference this afternoon. "People have to understand we are living with a great deal of faith here. Remain calm."

The rescue workers construction workers and other volunteers who are helping firefighters, police officers, paramedics and others described the painstaking process of picking through the rubble by hand, filling buckets.

"Guys are tunneling," said Dan Miller, a machinist from Linden, N.J., who had been working at the base of the destroyed twin towers. "You fill a bucket, hand it to the next guy."

As the mayor and the rescuers struggled to clear the way to lower Manhattan, officials in Washington elaborated on the "real and credible information" that that the American Airlines Boeing 757 that slammed into the Pentagon may have originally been headed for the White House. On Wednesday, a Bush administration official described a chilling threat to the Secret Service after the plane had hit the Pentagon. "Air Force One is next," the caller had said.

Today the White House press secretary, Mr. Fleischer, said that the caller had used the code name for Air Force One. That underlined the sophistication and knowledge of those involved in planning the attacks.

After his call to Mr. Pataki and Mr. Giuliani, the president said he had called a number of foreign leaders and found "universal support" for the United States.

The president and General Powell said that Washington had been in contact with Pakistan, and wanted to give the government there an opportunity to cooperate. Pakistan has close ties with the Taliban government of Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden has found a home.

"Now we'll just find out what that means, won't we?" the president said. "We will give the Pakistani government a chance to cooperate and participate as we hunt down those people who committed this unbelievable, despicable act."

Mr. Ashcroft said that in all, 18 hijackers had commandeered the four jetliners. The director of the F.B.I., Robert Mueller, said that five hijackers were on each of the planes that hit the World Trade Center and four on the plane that went down at the Pentagon. Four hijackers were also on the fourth plane, a United Airlines flight on which passengers apparently tried to thwart their captors before the Boeing 757 crashed southeast of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Mueller said that all 18 had tickets to board the planes they seized. The two that sliced in the World Trade Center were both Boston-to-Los Angeles flights; the Boeing 757 that hit the Pentagon was also bound for Los Angeles but had taken off from Dulles International Airport.