World marks decade since 9/11 attacks
From US troops stationed in dusty post-9/11 battle zones to dignitaries in capitals across the globe, the world paid tribute Sunday to the victims of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
With the war sparked by the attacks still raging in Afghanistan 10 years on, US soldiers paused at Bagram and other bases across the country in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 people killed when the Twin Towers came down.
In Kabul, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker joined dozens of embassy staff and troops for a ceremony at the embassy which included the lowering of the American flag, prayers and speeches.
"Some back home ask, why are we here? It has been a long fight and people are tired," Crocker said. "The reason is simple: Al-Qaeda is not here in Afghanistan, and thats because we are."
A Taliban suicide attack in Afghanistan jarred with the solemnity elsewhere, providing a stark reminder that Al-Qaeda and its supporters had not been crushed. Two Afghans were killed and dozens of US soldiers were wounded in the attack on a NATO combat post in the central Wardak province.
The US Embassy in Baghdad, in the Iraqi capital's heavily-fortified Green Zone, observed a minute's silence at 9:11 am (0611 GMT), followed by brief remarks over the mission's public address system by Ambassador James Jeffrey.
"It was strictly in-house, low-key and didn't involve anyone from outside the embassy. The flag was at half-mast, but I think that is the case for all US missions around the world," US Embassy spokesman Michael McClellan told AFP.
While US President Barack Obama prepared to address a ceremony at Ground Zero in New York, the families of British 9/11 victims attended a packed memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral in London to commemorate the 67 Britions who died in the 2001 attacks.
"We gather in this cathedral today to remember before God all who died in the atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania 10 years ago and to pray with those whose lives were changed forever that day," said Reverend Graeme Paul Knowles, the dean of St. Paul's.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague meanwhile said that Al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks, was "weaker than at any time in the decade since 9/11".
"Political progress through peaceful protest in the Middle East and North Africa has shown (Al-Qaeda) to be increasingly irrelevant to the future," he said in a statement.
In a moment of discord, around 50 protesters brandished anti-US banners and chanted slogans outside the US embassy in London where a minute's silence was being held.
An AFP journalist at the scene said the group burnt a small piece of paper with a picture of the US flag on it. Police formed a line near them but there was no violence.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a ceremony at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels that a "long winter" following 9/11 has turned into a "season of hope" with the pro-democracy Arab Spring movements.
"The 9/11 attacks were the beginning of a long winter in world history, but events in the Middle East have renewed our faith that although the desire for freedom can be repressed, it can never be extinguished," said Rasmussen at a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
"The Arab Apring is a new season of hope for us all."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Islamic militancy "is at its peak; it is not yet over."
"We must all unite, countries that aspire to life, certainly the democracies that cherish life, and act in concert against this blight."
Passengers and staff at Rome's two airports observed a minute's silence at 2.46 pm to coincide with timing of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center a decade before.
Mayor Gianni Alemanno and US Ambassador David Thorne laid a wreath at a monument in the Italian capital to the victims. Similar ceremonies were held across Italy.
In Paris, France marked the anniversary with concerts, a memorial mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral and the erection of a replica of the Twin Towers near the Eiffel Tower. The commmemorations were led by a Franco-American friendship group, "The French will Never Forget".
The US flag at Berlin's iconic Cold War border crossing Checkpoint Charlie was lowered to half-mast Sunday in honour of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
A sign at the site, which marked the frontier between communist East Berlin and the American sector of the city, read: "We will not forget September 11, 2001." It was signed "We Berliners."
Earlier German President Christian Wulff marked the anniversary with an ecumenical memorial service at Berlin's American Church led by representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths.
Three of the September 11 hijackers including their ringleader Mohammed Atta, who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center, planned the attacks while living in the northern German city of Hamburg.
In the first of the global memorials, the US rugby team attended an emotional service in New Zealand hours ahead of their opening World Cup match against Ireland.
At the ceremony, David Huebner, the US ambassador to New Zealand, said 9/11 was a day "to commemorate the triumph of the human spirit", a rare day "that galvanised the collective hearts and minds of humanity".
Pope Benedict XVI called on world leaders to resist the "temptation to hate" as he remembered the victims at a mass in Ancona, Italy.
In a letter to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the leader of the world's Roman Catholics said the tragedy of the attacks was all the worse because those behind it claimed to be acting in the name of God.
© 2011 AFP