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U.S.: Bin Laden Named Chief Suspect In Attacks

Washington, 14 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has identified Osama bin Laden as a leading suspect in the catastrophic terrorist assaults on New York City and Washington. President George W. Bush said the United States must lead the world to victory in the battle against terrorism, which he called the first war of the 21st century.

Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed that bin Laden, the millionaire Saudi believed to be living in Afghanistan, is under suspicion in connection with the terror attacks that are estimated to have left as many as 5,000 people dead.

But Powell said bin Laden was not the only suspect. He said the U.S. is aiming to defeat terrorists and their backers in a global attack against terrorism. Powell said he expected the cooperation of Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan.

In other developments:

-- U.S. officials are expected to travel to Moscow next week for talks with Russian officials on Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. terror attacks.

-- The security buffer around the White House has been extended, and U.S. officials said Vice President Dick Cheney had moved to the Camp David presidential retreat outside Washington as a precaution.

-- U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the U.S. would mount a sustained and broad action, using all available resources, to retaliate against those determined to have helped carry out and support the terror attacks.

-- Attorney General John Ashcroft said there were at least 18 hijackers on the four planes that were hijacked -- five each on two planes, and four each on the other two aircraft. Ashcroft said it was believed the hijackers had a significant number of supporters inside the U.S. and elsewhere.

-- German police arrested at least one person in Hamburg as a worldwide manhunt continued to find accomplices in the terror attacks.

-- U.S. officials say searchers have found one of two black boxes of the hijacked airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania on 11 September. Officials also say they have received an apparent signal from a black box of the commandeered plane that crashed at the Pentagon in Washington. The black box that was recovered in Pennsylvania contains technical flight data information.

-- However, a second black box that recorded cockpit conversation on the aircraft has not yet been recovered. That box would be crucial in determining what happened in the cockpit just before the plane plunged to the earth.

-- Officials say search crews will not be able to retrieve the black boxes at the Pentagon until they are able to enter the collapsed area of the building, where the plane's destroyed fuselage rests.

-- U.S. congressional leaders today agreed to push through the both houses of Congress a $40 billion emergency program to combat terrorism and rebuild. Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House of Representatives, said the House could consider the bill today, with the Senate following soon after. The lawmakers are also considering a measure providing President George W. Bush with "necessary and appropriate force" to deal with people responsible for terrorist attacks against the United States.

-- With hopes of finding any further survivors dwindling, authorities in the U.S. have released preliminary figures indicating that about 5,000 people are likely to have died in the terror strikes in New York and Washington. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said 4,763 people are listed as missing from the collapse of the twin World Trade Center towers. Officials said 94 people have been confirmed killed in New York and some 3,800 injured. A total of 266 people were aboard the four hijacked aircraft that crashed in the attacks.

-- In Washington, U.S. defense officials said 126 people at the Pentagon were believed to have been killed when one of the hijacked aircraft crashed into the large building. Some 70 bodies have been recovered so far.

-- Foreign governments and aid agencies today are greeting the reopening of U.S. airspace with offers of assistance to the United States in coping with the aftermath of terrorist attacks earlier this week. European Union Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said the EU's network of disaster experts is mobilized and ready to provide help to the United States.

-- The European Commission has sent a Belgian team, including burn specialists and experts in victim identification, to Iceland to await instructions from the United States.

-- Teams of experts from France, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland, and the Netherlands were also mobilized and put on standby.

-- Germany has offered medical evacuation planes. Britain, Norway, and Japan are among other nations that have expressed a desire to help.

-- And Nasuh Mahruki, the chairman of Turkish search and rescue group AKUT, says he has assembled a 12-man team to help search efforts.