Bush Says Bin Laden Wanted Dead or Alive

ByABC News

Sept. 17, 2001 -- President Bush vowed to track down Omar bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and reasserted his warning to any nation that shelters him.

Bush also had a warning for Americans: He said the war to stamp out terrorism would be long and could be costly and might be short on the kinds of operations and obvious victories that are seen in traditional wars.

The president spoke today at the Pentagon, after news broke that a meeting between a high-level Pakistani delegation and Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia had failed to result in the terror suspect being turned over.

After a three hour meeting, the Taliban leadership said the decision would be left up to the country's council of Islamic clerics. The Pakistani delegation was expected to travel to the Afghani capital of Kabul for meetings with the clerics on Tuesday.

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar announced the decision in a statement on Radio Shariat.

The Taliban, long supported by Pakistan, has provided a safe haven for bin Laden in recent years. They say he is a guest, and deny his alleged role in Tuesday's attacks as well as other events in which he is a suspect, such as the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Bush reiterated today that bin Laden is "the prime suspect" in Tuesday's attacks, in which hijacked planes slammed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, where thousands are feared dead. Another hijacked airliner crashed in Pennsylvania, apparently after passengers overwhelmed the hijackers.

Bush, who on Sunday said there was "no question" that Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf wanted to cooperate with the United States, today said that Americans want bin Laden "dead or alive."

"I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive."'

The president has said that multilateral cooperation would be necessary for the U.S. war on terrorism to be effective and some of Afghanistan's neighbors have expressed some willingness to help. Uzbekistan and India have both said it might be possible for the United States to use their territory to stage military operations against Afghanistan.

In other developments today:

Back To Work

Wall Street again was teaming with brokers, traders and investment bankers heading to work for the first time since the attack Tuesday.

Just an hour before the markets opened, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates 0.5 percent in a bold move to keep markets functioning. But that didn't stop the Dow from plunging more than 600 points in the first hour of trading. The Nasdaq dropped nearly 100 points. In the second hour of trading, though, both indexes showed signs of stabilizing.

The four-day markets' shutdown last week was the longest since the Depression, and the Fed move is seen as an effort to boost confidence in an already badly shaken financial system.

The cut is the third time this year the central bank has cut rates between its regularly scheduled meetings. Lending rates are now at their lowest levels in nearly eight years.

The markets opened with lower Manhattan still struggling to recover from the attacks. A short way from Wall Street, rescue workers were sifting through the rubble, hoping to find any of the 4,957 who are officially reported missing following the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Tension in the Middle East

Afghanistan is bracing for war. The landlocked country shut down its airspace this morning and Pakistan has closed its border with Afghanistan and cut off the supply of fuel to its neighbor, in accordance with U.S. requests. Pakistan is also sharing its intelligence on bin Laden with the United States, sources told ABCNEWS.

Pakistani army officials reportedly said there was a large Afghan military build-up on the border between the two countries. U.S. military officials, however, told ABCNEWS they saw no evidence of any troop or missile movements. The Taliban government also denied any military movements.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is also believed to have asked for U.S. military access to Pakistani airspace. U.S. officials may have also asked to station troops in Pakistan for attacks on Afghanistan, which would be a tough sell with the Pakistani public, many of whom support the Taliban — and have hard feelings toward the United States.

Iran has closed its border with Afghanistan, as tens of thousands of Afghans flee several major cities.

Fears are growing in Israel that they may be attacked by an Arab country if the United States retaliates for last week's terror strikes in New York and Washington.

Tajikistan's leadership said it would not permit Western nations to launch attacks on neighboring Afghanistan from its territory.

Bin Laden, in a statement broadcast by Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite channel, denied any involvement in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Rumsfield: ‘Best Defense an Effective Offense’

The move to pressure the Taliban comes as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stressed Washington's commitment to pursuing a prolonged, multifaceted, potentially costly campaign against international terrorists and the countries that support them.

"The best defense is an effective offense," Rumsfeld said Sunday.

Rumsfeld said U.S. efforts to beat terrorism would take years, and the American public should be prepared for the possibility of casualties from the use of ground troops.

"What this war is about is our way of life, and our way of life is worth losing life for, and the era of antiseptic warfare, planes dropping bombs from 20,000 feet, cruise missiles flying off in the night, no one getting hurt on the United States or the coalition side, that will not work with this enemy, let there be no doubt," he said.

Possible Clue to Attacks

In the United States, five people identified by investigators as key material witnesses have been brought to New York from cities around the country where they were detained.

ABCNEWS has learned that among them is an alleged member of bin Laden's organization al Qaeda who was detained last month on immigration charges.

Authorities were alerted when Habib Zacarias Moussaoui, 33, showed up at a Minnesota flight school last month offering cash for lessons on a Boeing 747 flight simulator. He reportedly was not interested in learning takeoffs and landings — only in how to fly the plane in a horizontal position, a desire that rang warning bells at the flight school, which then alerted authorities.

After the tip from the flight school, Moussaoui was taken into custody and it was learned that he had taken flight lessons earlier this year at a school in Norman, Okla. He was picked up on Aug. 17, about three weeks before Tuesday's attacks.

In addition, two men detained in Fort Worth, Texas, have been flown to New York for questioning.

Law enforcement officials say as many as 25 people picked up on immigration violations will be questioned in connection with the attacks. Most are believed to be on a list of more than 100 people the FBI wants to interview, and officials said some have been cooperating.

The FBI made its first arrest on Friday. The suspect, whose identity was not made public, was being held as a material witness in New York after being detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport a day earlier, sources told ABCNEWS.

Amid tightened security, hundreds of U.S. commercial flights were back in the air Sunday, after a three-day shutdown of U.S. airports following the attacks. Major U.S. airlines have been hard hit by the shutdown, with the fifth-largest carrier, Continental Airlines, announcing Saturday it was laying off 12,000 staff and may have to file for bankruptcy protection.

At Least One Hijacker Was on Watch List

Also, ABCNEWS has confirmed that the CIA, prior to the attack, had given the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service the names of one of the hijackers and that his name was placed on the INS watch list, as reported in Newsweek.

Khalid Al-Midhar, according to the CIA information, met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a senior aide to bin Laden and a principal suspect in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Al-Midhar, a Yemeni national, had already entered the United States when his name was placed on the list on Aug. 24.

But it is Moussaoui's case that is drawing special interest this weekend, and a material witness warrant was issued for him in New York late Saturday.

"The idea of somebody showing up at a professional flight school and saying, 'I just want to learn how to fly the plane horizontally' is absurd in the extreme," said ABCNEWS aviation analyst John Nance. "Nobody would put him in the seat."

Fading Hopes in New York

In New York, the 24-hour search-and-rescue operation at the site of the World Trade Center continues. In addition to the nearly 5,000 people who have been reported missing, the New York police report that 190 are confirmed dead, and 115 have been identified including 37 firefighters.

No one has been pulled out of the rubble alive since Wednesday.

At the Pentagon crash site, 188 people are unaccounted for. So far, 95 sets of remains have been removed from the site and 90 of those have been shipped to Dover Air Force Base.

In Pennsylvania, all 45 people aboard United Flight 93 were killed when the hijacked aircraft crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.