World leaders reacted with revulsion Tuesday to what President Bush called an “apparent terrorist attack” by aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
Meanwhile, Palestinians have taken to the streets to celebrate the attacks. In the West Bank town of Nablus, about 3,000 people poured out of their homes and businesses, chanting “God is Great” and distributing candy — a traditional gesture of celebration.
The U.S. government is unpopular with many Palestinians, who accuse Washington of siding with Israel.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat emerged from a meeting with his top advisers to say he’s “shocked” by the attacks in New York and Washington. Arafat says his government condemns the attacks and wishes to send condolences to the American people and their leaders.
In a news conference, Afghanistan’s hardline Taliban rulers rejected suggestions that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks.
The Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan says bin Laden doesn’t have the facilities to carry out such well-orchestrated attacks.
Key indexes sank on world stock markets and most European airlines canceled flights to the United States and recalled planes already in the air.
The cancellations and diversions caused confusion and congestion at many European airports, where airlines ordered flights bound for the United States to do U-turns or find alternate landing points outside America.
Airlines including British Airways, Scandinavia’s SAS and Belgium’s Sabena canceled flights across the Atlantic and recalled planes that were already in the air.
Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli leaders joined Europe, Mexico and other countries in condemning the devastating attacks that caused as yet unknown casualties.
Western European leaders broke off their normal business to return to their capitals for crisis meetings and expressed solidarity with the United States.
The European Union released a statement saying it was the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor 60 years ago and was “one of those few days in life that one can actually say will change everything.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the American people over the terrorist attacks, calling them “terrible tragedies,” the Kremlin press service said.
“This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today,” said Prime Minister Tony Blair, who canceled a speech at a trade union conference. “It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life, and we the democracies of this world are going to have to come together and fight it together.”
President Jacques Chirac of France, in a nationally televised statement, called the attacks in the United States “monstrous” and expressed his solidarity with the American people.
“France has just learned of these monstrous attacks, there is no other word for it, that have hit America,” Chirac said from Rennes, in the western region of Brittany.
In Berlin, Foreign Ministry officials huddled in a crisis meeting. “My government condemns these terrorist attacks to the utmost,” said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
“It is probably the largest attack we have ever seen against an open democracy and therefore an issue for the entire democratic world,” said Sweden’s Prime Minister Goran Persson. “All democratic forces must form a united front.”