Ashcroft: Naming Names

  • Share
  • Read Later
AFP

Zacarias Moussaoui

On the three-month anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the U.S. Justice Department handed down its first indictment directly linked to the deadly acts.

Zacarias Moussaoui was charged with six counts of conspiracy Tuesday, including charges that he conspired with Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network to "murder thousands of people" in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced. Four of the six counts could carry the death penalty. "Al-Qaeda will now meet the justice it abhors and the judgment it fears,'' Ashcroft said.

Moussaoui, born in France of Moroccan heritage, was arrested in Minnesota two weeks before the attacks on an alleged passport violation; he had initially raised suspicions by requesting special flight classes. Although his detainment kept him from physically participating in the September 11th hijackings, he underwent "the same training, received the same funding and pledged the same commitment to kill Americans as the hijackers," Ashcroft said.

French intelligence officials initially opened a file on Moussaoui in 1994, citing suspected financial links to an Algerian terrorist cell. A French judge eventually refused authorities’ request to interview Moussaoui, saying there was not enough evidence to support an interrogation. Moussaoui lived in London through much of the 1990s, becoming more and more fanatical in his dedication to Islam, and adopting extreme political and religious views, acquaintances recall.

U.S. authorities had long suspected Moussaoui’s involvement in the terror attacks, and Tuesday’s charges represent a culmination of those suspicions. The 30-page indictment, Ashcroft says, is "a chronicle of evil." The other five counts against Moussaoui: conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, to commit aircraft piracy, to destroy property, to murder and to use weapons of mass destruction. The indictment also accuses Moussaoui of training at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, learning to fly in the United States and pledging to kill Americans.

Day of remembrance

Tuesday was a somber day as mourners gathered at the sites of the September 11th terror attacks, and in mosques, synagogues and churches and schools across the country. President Bush presided over a ceremonial playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" at exactly 8:46 a.m. EST, the moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center. "Every death extinguished a world," Bush told the nation.

The memorials stretched across the globe: At the President’s behest, nations around the world paused simultaneously to play their own national anthems as well as the United States’ — and to remember the victims of the attacks.