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US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter applauds as US President Barack Obama concludes his remarks during the 15th anniversary memorial ceremony on the 9/11 atacks at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia yeaterday. Source: IOL/EPA/Shawn Thew

NEW YORK – The United States commemorated the victims of the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the 15th anniversary of the
atrocity, with President Barack Obama saying that the threat of
terrorism has since “evolved.”

Terrorists on suicide missions carried out the 2001 attacks,
hijacking four passenger jets and crashing them into the two World
Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon defence headquarters
outside Washington. Almost 3 000 people were killed.

Speaking yesterday at the Pentagon, Obama said: “Fifteen years into
this fight, the threat has evolved.”

The nature of terrorism has changed from such mass-casualty attacks
to so-called lone-wolf attacks “on a smaller, but still deadly,
scale,”
Obama said, listing recent shootings carried out by radical
Islamists in San Bernadino and Orlando as examples.

A minute’s silence to mark the anniversary began at 8:46 am (12:46
GMT), which marks the time the first hijacked airplane hit the North
Tower of the World Trade Center.

The names of the 2 977 victims were read during the main memorial
service at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were the deadliest ever
to have occurred on US soil and have had a huge impact on US domestic
and foreign policy.

The fear of terrorism has remained vivid also as the issue has played
a prominent role in the 2016 US presidential elections, which has
given rise to one of the most heated campaigns in living memory.

But Obama stressed that diversity in the US is “not a weakness; it is
still, and always will be, one of our greatest strengths”
and urged
citizens to “not let others divide us.”

The US public’s fear of such attacks has reached new highs in 2016,
according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

Currently, 40% of the US public believes that the ability of
terrorists to launch another major attack against the US is greater
than it was at the time of the 2001 attacks, which is the largest
proportion since 2002.

The shift is especially noticeable when divided along party lines: 58% of Republican respondents said that terrorists’ abilities to
launch an attack have increased since 2001; the figure stands at 31% for Democrats and 34% for independent voters.

– DPA