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On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered the deadliest terrorist attacks on its soil in

the countrys history. The attacks, perpetrated by 19 militants associated with the Islamic
extremist group al-Qaeda, involved a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks against
targets in New York City and Washington, D.C. The attacks caused extensive death and
destruction and triggered an enormous U.S. effort to combat
terrorism
.

EncyclopdiaBritannica,Inc.
EncyclopdiaBritannica,
Inc.

The attacks were planned well in advance; the militantsmost of whom were from Saudi
Arabiatraveled to the United States beforehand, where a number received commercial flight
training. Working in small groups, the hijackers boarded four domestic airliners on the
morning of September 11, 2001, and took control of the planes soon after takeoff. At 8:46
AM
the terrorists piloted the first plane into the north tower of the
World Trade Center
in New
York City. A second plane struck the south tower 17 minutes later. Both structures erupted in
flames and, badly damaged, soon collapsed. A third plane struck the southwest side of the
Pentagon
building near Washington, D.C., at 9:37
AM
, touching off a fire in that section of the
structure. Within the next hour the fourth aircraft crashed in a field near Shanksville,
Pennsylvania, after its passengersaware of events via cellular telephoneattempted to
overpower their assailants.
Rescuers immediately rushed to the sites of the attacks. In New York City, more than 400
police officers and firefighters were killed as they searched for survivors. In all, some 2,750

people were killed in New York, 184 at the Pentagon, and 40 in Pennsylvania. All 19 terrorists
died.
Soon after the September 11 attacks, U.S. President
George W. Bush
visited the site of the
fallen World Trade Center, which became known as Ground Zero. He declared that the
people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon. The Office of
Homeland Security was established to effect a national strategy to fight terrorism in the
United States. On the international front, Bush called for a global war on terrorism. The
North
Atlantic Treaty Organization
supported that effort, and in October 2001 the United States and
allied military forces launched air attacks against the
Taliban
government of Afghanistan,
which had harbored al-Qaedas leader,
Osama bin Laden
, and his followers. By the end of the
year the Taliban had been forced from power. In 2003 the United States and allied forces also
launched an
invasion of Iraq
, whose government they had accused of developing weapons of
mass destruction (an accusation that was later proved incorrect). Also in 2003 the Office of
Homeland Security was transformed into the cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security,
which assumed control of a number of agencies responsible for domestic security and
emergency preparedness.

PeteSouzaOfficialWhiteHousePhoto
Pete
SouzaOfficialWhiteHousePhoto

Meanwhile, U.S. forces continued to hunt for bin Laden, who had managed to evade capture.
He was thought possibly to be hiding either in Afghanistan or in the tribal regions of Pakistan
near the border with Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence eventually located him in Pakistan, living
in the garrison city of Abbottabad, and in the early morning hours of May 2, 2011, on orders

from U.S. President


Barack Obama
, a small team of U.S. Navy SEALs assaulted his compound
and shot and killed the al-Qaeda leader.