Copyright 2001 Nationwide News Pty Limited
Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia)

September 12, 2001, Wednesday


LENGTH: 391 words

HEADLINE: State Dept reportedly hit by car bomb

A CAR bomb exploded outside the State Department, senior law enforcement officials said.

A loud explosion was reported in the vicinity of the Capitol.

The departments of Justice, State, Treasury and Defence were among those ordered evacuated, as were the Capitol and the White House.

In a remarkable scene, security guards brandishing automatic weapons could be seen outside the White House.

Chaos broke out around the Pentagon amid a threat of a second plane attack.

A fighter jet overflew the Pentagon at 10:50am (US time), shortly after an FBI official told AFP a hijacked plane was heading toward the building.

No second plane appeared.

President Bush cut short a visit to Florida to return to Washington.

Air Force One took off for Washington even as the Federal Aviation Authority grounded all other aircraft in response to the national crisis.

Awaiting Mr Bush was a scene of bedlam in Washington, smoke coming from the Pentagon.

Mr Bush called it a "difficult moment for America".

"Today we've had a national tragedy," he said.

"I have spoken to the vice president, to the governor of New York, to the director of the FBI, and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and the families and to conduct a full scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act."

Bush was immediately returning to Washington and was expected to convene a national security meeting on his return to the White House.

White House officials said Bush learned about the incident while in his limousine driving from his hotel to the Florida school where he was to give a speech.

While visiting the schoolchildren, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered an update into the president's ear.

The president's face turned sombre at what Mr Card told him.

A witness who saw the plane crash into the Pentagon said an American Airlines passenger jet flew low straight into the Pentagon and crashed into the first floor of the building.

"I saw this large American Airlines passenger jet coming in fast and low," said Army Captain Lincoln Liebner.

"My first thought was I've never seen one that high. Before it hit I realised what was happening."

Mr Liebner said the aircraft struck a helicopter on the helipad, setting fire to a fire truck.