9/11 (2001)

Al Qaeda conceived of its September 11, 2001, attacks as blows against the American economy and the U.S. government. The sequenced strikes were aimed to kill victims on four commercial airliners, at New York City’s World Trade Center (WTC), and in the U.S. Department of Defense’s Pentagon headquarters in Arlington County, Virginia. To succeed, they exploited aviation security weaknesses— speed and surprise—capitalizing on lethality and media coverage. The hijacking of four jets, piloted as suicidal cruise missiles, allowed the planners and their subordinates to create the maximum physical and psychological impact. The result was the most deadly set of terrorist attacks in history. The 19 hijackers destroyed the pair of office buildings at the globe’s financial heart, damaged the U.S. military headquarters, and killed 2,977—all ...

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