TOKYO – Allies in the war on terror marked the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 Al Qaeda attacks in the United States with memorial events for the victims and renewed resolve to continue the fight.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi warned that terrorism remains as big a threat as ever, while Australia's leader promised that the values of liberty and religious freedom would in the end emerge victorious. Meanwhile, U.S. and Philippine troops fighting Islamic extremists in the jungles of Southeast Asia prayed for peace and safety.
The outpouring of remembrance reflects an international landscape vastly changed since terrorists hijacked four airliners in 2001, crashing two into New York's World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and another into a Pennsylvania field.
The brash attacks claimed 2,973 lives and stunned the world.
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On Sunday, U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, stood in somber silence after laying wreaths at the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared. He later pledged "renewed resolve" to remember the lessons of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Half way around the globe, Australian Prime Minister John Howard echoed the determination at a ceremony Monday held at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, saying "terrorism is the enemy of all people of good will."
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Howard branded the Sept. 11 strike "an attack on the values that the entire world holds in common" and promised that the ideals of liberty and freedom of religion and speech "will in the end triumph."
The Australian leader also defended his decision to send troops to Iraq in support of the U.S.-led coalition and called the campaign to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan the first battle in the war on terror.
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"As far as Afghanistan, it's been established beyond any real argument that that was the source of the Usama bin Laden-inspired attack and the Taliban, and role of the Taliban and bin Laden in Afghanistan was really, in a sense, the beginning of this campaign of terror in the west," Howard said.
Another memorial ceremony was planned later in the day at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Japan has also been a top supporter of the U.S.-led war on terror, sending troops to Iraq and aiding in logistics support for operations in Afghanistan.
Koizumi, in Finland for an Asia-Europe Meeting, was cited by a Japanese official as saying that terrorism "continued to be as much of a threat as ever to mankind," Kyodo News agency reported.
At the summit, he proposed hosting a conference of senior officials and experts on terrorism in 2007, Kyodo said.
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In the southern Philippines, where U.S.-backed government troops have been battling Al Qaeda-linked militants, American and Filipino soldiers were to mark the anniversary with a quiet ceremony, including prayers, said Col. James Linder, commander of American forces in the country.
The Philippines has been the target of a string of attacks, including a 2004 bombing blamed on the Al Qaeda-linked group Abu Sayyaf that gutted a ferry in Manila, killing 116 people. It has been hosting the U.S. troops as part of the fight to rein in the violence.
"We will remember all of the many terrorist incidents that have happened in this area, to Americans and to all peace-loving people," Linder said. "All of those things were done by the most hideous type of enemy that all peace-loving people fear."
Not everyone commemorated the fifth anniversary the same way, however.
A videotape posted on the Internet late Sunday, purportedly by Al Qaeda, showed previously unseen footage of a smiling Usama bin Laden and other commanders in a mountain camp apparently planning the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The 55-minute documentary-like retrospective of the five years since the attacks was unusually long and sophisticated in its production quality compared to previous al-Qaida videos, and was complete with English subtitles.
"Planning for Sept. 11 did not take place behind computer monitors or radar screens, nor inside military command and control centers, but was surrounded with divine protection in an atmosphere brimming with brotherliness ... and love for sacrificing life," an unidentified narrator said.