Remembrance ceremonies will take place in the United States on Saturday for the nearly 3,000 people killed in attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on September 11, 2001.
AFP - Remembrance ceremonies, marred by global tensions over a Florida pastor's threat to burn the Koran, were to take place Saturday in New York and at the Pentagon on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The rituals honoring the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001, when Islamist terrorists flew hijacked planes into the defense headquarters and New York's World Trade Center towers, unfold almost unchanged each year.
SLIDESHOW: 9 YEARS LATER
© AFP | The worst terrorist attack on US soil
At 8.46 am on Sept. 11, 2001, a hijacked airliner smashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. As the world watched in horror, three planes then crashed into the WTC's South Tower, the Pentagon building, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
© AFP | Rebuilding Ground Zero
After nine years of financial infighting that has bogged the reconstruction at 1 World Trade Center, the centrepiece tower in the vast reconstruction project is set to be completed in 2013. The memorial opening is set for next year.
© AFP | Unholy row over 'Ground Zero Mosque'
A plan to build an Islamic Cultural Centre at 51 Park Place, near Ground Zero, sparked an acrimonious public argument over terrorism and Islam.
© AFP | Freedom of worship at stake
As the clash between opponents and supporters of the Islamic Centre plan threatened to divide the city and the nation, President Barack Obama was compelled to weigh in, when he reminded Americans that freedom of worship is one of the foundations of US democracy.
© AFP | A pastor proposes an incendiary plan
Days before the 9/11 ninth anniversary commemorations, Terry Jones, a pastor at a tiny Florida church, sparked another controversy when he announced a plan to burn Korans to mark the occasion.
© AFP | Anger across the Muslim world
Responding to Pastor Jones’ Koran-burning plan, thousands took to the streets in Afghanistan, as Muslims in Indonesia, India and Pakistan voiced their outrage. Leaders of countries including Afghanistan and Indonesia issued dire warnings against the provocative act.
© AFP | Remembering the victims
On Sept. 11, for the past nine years, families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks have gathered at Ground Zero to commemorate their loved ones.
© AFP | Marking an event that changed history
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, not only altered one of the world’s most famous skylines, but also left an indelible mark on history. Nine years later, the world is still coming to terms with the events that changed the course of US – and world – history.
In New York at Ground Zero the names of the 2,752 victims who died there are read out against a background of somber music, with moments of silence marking the times when the two airliners slammed into the Twin Towers -- and again when the towers collapsed.
President Barack Obama was to attend the memorial service at the Pentagon, while Vice President Joseph Biden was to be in New York. A third service was taking place in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where the fourth hijacked airliner crashed into a field.
This year the dignified and simple events are overshadowed by a row over a renegade Florida pastor's threat to publicly burn hundreds of Korans on Saturday if plans are not dropped for a proposed mosque near Ground Zero.
FRANCE 24 FOCUS
The pastor, Terry Jones, seemed to have abandoned his Koran-burning plan by Friday after pleas from President Barack Obama, the Vatican and several other world leaders warning of a catastrophe for Western-Muslim relations.
However, tensions remained high and Jones's stunt ensured that the related controversy over the proposed Ground Zero mosque took center stage.
Rival rallies by groups supporting and opposing the disputed mosque project were to take place nearby soon after the official ceremonies at Ground Zero, breaking an unwritten taboo on open politicization of the anniversary.
Police said they would ensure the two groups were kept apart.
The still un-built mosque and Islamic community center was originally proposed by New York's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as a chance to heal post-9/11 wounds just two blocks from Ground Zero.
However opponents -- led by rightwing radio DJs and politicians campaigning on patriotic tickets ahead of November 2 congressional midterm elections -- accuse the imam of seeking to honor the Islamist terrorists responsible for the attacks.
The mosque standoff and Jones's Koran burning plans have created such a toxic atmosphere for US Muslims that Obama pleaded Friday for Americans "to make sure that we don't start turning on each other."
Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog, warned Friday of "persecution" against US Muslims and calling on the government to protect their rights.
Jones's plans on Saturday remained unclear. The obscure pastor, who leads a tiny evangelical congregation of about 50, insisted his truce depended on being at least able to meet with Rauf. But there was no indication late Friday that such a meeting was to take place.
Whatever happens, damage to the US image in the Muslim world may have already occurred.
Anger spilled in Afghanistan on Friday where thousands of people threw stones and demonstrated outside a small NATO military base.
Obama's Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier had made a personal call to Jones, saying US troops in Afghanistan would face revenge attacks if the Koran burning went ahead.
There were also protests in Pakistan and Indonesia.
Najib Razak, prime minister of Muslim-majority Malaysia, warned that a "single act of abhorrence" could "ignite the feelings of Muslims throughout the world, the consequences of which I fear would be very, very costly."
Date created : 2010-09-11