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9/11 memories: Abdel Bari Atwan

We asked the editor of al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper: where were you on 9/11?

I was in my office at al-Quds al-Arabi in Hammersmith, west London, just before 2pm on 11 September 2001 when suddenly the phones in our newsroom started going crazy. A British journalist colleague got through to me on my mobile. "Turn the television on," he said. I did so just in time to see the first plane crash into the North Tower. Everyone at the paper was crowded round televisions, watching in disbelief as smoke poured from the tower. When the second plane hit, a collective gasp went up and some people started crying - it was so shocking.

The same British colleague called me back. "What do you think?" he asked. "It's al-Qaeda," I said. "I am absolutely sure of that." There were two reasons for my certainty. One: simultaneous, or almost simultaneous, suicide bombings had become the organisation's hallmark (twin truck bombs were used in 1998 to bomb the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam). And two: Osama Bin Laden had hinted to me when I met him in 1996 that a major attack against the US was being prepared.

Nobody could have imagined, though, that a few men in a cave in the most remote part of Afghanistan's Tora Bora Mountains could inflict such catastrophic wounds on the world's greatest superpower. I was, and remain, astonished and horrified by those events.

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This article first appeared in the 05 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, 9/11