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North African Press on US Attack

September 12, 2001 Posted to the web September 12, 2001

Washington, DC

Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC were widely reported throughout North Africa. In an article called "Terrorist Attack on the United States, Disbelief Throughout the World", Libération, a leading Moroccan daily, wrote:

"There were images of the apocalypse yesterday in downtown Manhattan. The heart of business and finance in New York and the rest of the world was wiped off the map by two explosions."

Liberation also reported on events elsewhere in the United States:

"In Washington, similar scenes of panic occurred after the explosion of a plane which crashed into the Pentagon, while a fire was announced in a building near the White House."

But it is in the editorial where the newpaper deals with the psychological impact the attacks had on the rest of the world:

"Incredible," says Libération, "and yet we are compelled to accept that the images of fire and destruction on our screens are real. The United States was struck from head to toe. Never before, not even in the worst fictional scenarios depicted by American cinema, was such a catastrophe ever seen before."

Libération also explains how Americans will never feel the same again about their safety:

The Americans who had thought they were so immune [to terrorism] found themselves brutally at the mercy of terror, just like those other parts of the world they look at so distant. The US secret services, supposed to be among the most efficient in the world, never saw it coming. It is obviously an emotional situation which raises feelings of compassion and solidarity with the American people. That is a natural feeling and the only one possible under the circumstances, just like unequivocal condemnation of this act of terrorsim. Later, the time will come to ask questions about who did it, why and how?"

Libération cautions against jumping to conclusions and criticises the "criminal stupidity of those media" who, it says, have already pointed the finger at the Arabs and Muslims:

"Thus the images of a few kids in refugee camps are supposed to say 'look, they are happy therefore they must have done it', or imagined claims of responsibility coming from this or that group with an Arabic-sounding name."

Tuesday's events, concludes Libération, delivered a "sinister" message:

From now on, no country is safe from the nightmare the US is now living through."

In Algeria, a country that has been fighting against local terrorism for a decade, the daily La Tribune devoted several articles to the attacks on New York and Washington DC. One of the lead articles, headlined The Apocalypse, went through the whole sequence of events and implicitly criticised attempts 'to prematurely point the finger at the Middle East'.

In another article called "The Palestinians Are the Second Victims of Attacks on Americans", the newspaper recalls the bombings of the 1998 US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the lessons the newspaper says were never learnt from them:

"The first commentaries following those attacks immediately established a link with the war in the Middle East. And although it had become clear that the Oklahoma City bombing had nothing to do with the Middle East and that the enemies of the United States are many, the reflexes remained the same and nobody paid any attention to the other leads."

Quoting a French aviation expert on the "complexity" of the attacks on the Twin Towers, the newspaper puts its own spin on the event:

"Knowing that a great many suicide bombings by Islamist Palestinians ended in the death of the bomber alone, does it still seem realistic to favour the Palestinian lead [in the attacks on New York]?"

In Egypt, the region's biggest power, the semi-government newspaper Al-Ahram confined its coverage to facts while refraining from analysis. It also reported extensively on the reacation of President Husni Mubarak who sent a letter to President Bush condemning terrorism. According to Al-Ahram, responding to a question on the implications of the attacks for the Middle East, Mubarak said:

"I cannot comment now. The United States is facing a problem. It is a catastrophe. Terrorism is striking everywhere in the world. When the situation quietens down in the United States, we will talk."

-- Martin Thompson (, September 15, 2001

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