The worst international terrorist attack ever—involving four separate but coordinated aircraft hijackings—occurred in the United States on September 11, 2001. The 19 hijackers belonged to the al-Qaida terrorist network. According to investigators and records of cellular phone calls made by passengers aboard the planes, the hijackers used knives and boxcutters to kill or wound passengers and the pilots, and then commandeer the aircraft, which the hijackers used to destroy preselected targets.
More than 3000 persons were killed in these four attacks. Citizens of 78 countries perished at the World Trade Center site. "Freedom and democracy are under attack," said President Bush the following day. Leaders from around the world called the events of September 11 an attack on civilization itself.
The coordinated attack was an act of war against the United States. President Bush said in a 20 September 2001 address to a joint session of Congress: "Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated."
Virtually every nation condemned the attack and joined the US-led Coalition to fight terror on several fronts: diplomatic, economic, intelligence, law enforcement, and military. Operation Enduring Freedom, the military component of the Coalition, began on 7 October. The first targets were the al-Qaida training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Islamic extremists from around the world—including North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Central, South, and Southeast Asia—had used Afghanistan as a training ground and base of operations for worldwide terrorist activities.
Within months, the Taliban was driven from power, and nearly 1000 al-Qaida operatives were arrested in over 60 countries.
At year's end, the war continued to be waged on all fronts and was certain to last well into the future.
Review of Terrorism in 2001
Despite the horrific events of September 11, the number of international terrorist attacks in 2001 declined to 346, down from 426 the previous year. One hundred seventy-eight of the attacks were bombings against a multinational oil pipeline in Colombia—constituting 51 percent of the year's total number of attacks. In the year 2000, there were 152 pipeline bombings in Colombia, which accounted for 40 percent of the total.
A total of 3,547 persons were killed in international terrorist attacks in 20011, the highest annual death toll from terrorism ever recorded. Ninety percent of the fatalities occurred in the September 11 attacks. In 2000, 409 persons died in terrorist attacks. The number of persons wounded in terrorist attacks in 2001 was 1080, up from 796 wounded the previous year. Violence in the Middle East and South Asia also accounted for the increase in casualty totals for 2001.
In addition to the US citizens killed and injured on September 11, eight other US citizens were killed and 15 were wounded in acts of terrorism last year.
1In the absence of a final official total from New York City authorities, we are using 3,000 as the number of persons killed in the World Trade Center attacks.