Prime Minister Tony Blair
Statement to Parliament
October 4, 2001
I am grateful to you for recalling Parliament on a second occasion so that the
House can consider developments since it last met.
Then the scale of 11 September tragedy was still unclear. Even today we do not
yet know the precise numbers of those feared dead. But a bleak picture has emerged:
there are up to 7,000 feared dead, including many British victims and others
from 70 different countries. Many were Muslims. It cannot be said too often:
this atrocity appalled decent Muslims everywhere and is wholly contrary to the
true teaching of Islam. And we condemn unreservedly racist attacks on British
Muslims here, most recently at an Edinburgh Mosque.
These acts are without any justification whatever and the full force of the
law will be used against those who do them.
I pay tribute again to all those in America who have been involved in dealing
with the human consequences of the attacks. The rescue services and medical
workers who worked tirelessly and with devotion in the most harrowing conditions
imaginable. I pay tribute to our own consular staff in New York and London and
the family counsellors and Metropolitan Police officers who have supported relatives
of the victims. And, above all, to the relatives themselves. Those I met in
New York, still uncertain finally of the fate of their loved ones, bore their
grief with immense dignity which deserves the admiration of us all.
Since 11 September intensive efforts have taken place here and elsewhere to
investigate these attacks and determine who is responsible. Our findings have
been shared and co-ordinated with those of our allies, and are clear.
First, it was Usama Bin Laden and Al Qaida, the terrorist network which
he heads, that planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September;
Second, that Usama Bin Laden and Al Qaida were able to commit these atrocities
because of their close alliance with the Taleban regime in Afghanistan which
allows them to operate with impunity in pursuing their terrorist activity.
I will later today put in the Library of the House of Commons a document detailing
the basis for our conclusions. The document covers the history of Usama Bin
Laden, his relations with the Taleban, what we know of the acts of terror he
has committed; and some of what we know in respect of 11 September. I enter
a major caveat, much of the evidence we have is intelligence and highly sensitive.
It is not possible without compromising people or security to release precise
details and fresh information is daily coming in. But I hope the House will
find it useful at least as an interim assessment. The Leader of the Opposition
and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats have seen the full basis for the document
on Privy Council terms. For myself and all other Government Ministers who have
studied the full information, we have absolutely no doubt that Bin Laden and
his network are responsible for the attacks on 11 September. That was also the
unanimous view of the NATO members who were taken through the full facts on
2 October. Much more of the evidence in respect of earlier atrocities can be
released in greater detail since it is already subject to court proceedings;
and this in itself is powerful.
Indeed, there is nothing hidden about Bin Ladens agenda. He openly espouses
the language of terror; has described terrorising Americans as "a religious
and logical obligation"; and in February 1998 signed a fatwa stating that
"the killing of Americans and their civilian and military allies is a religious
As our document shows, he has been responsible for a number of terrorist outrages
over the past decade.
The attack in 1993 on US military personnel serving in Somalia
18 US military personnel killed.
In 1998, the bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. 224 people
killed and over 4500 injured.
Attempted bombings in Jordan and Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium,
The attack on the USS Cole nearly a year ago which left 17 crew members
killed and 40 injured.
The attacks on 11 September bear all the hallmarks of a Bin Laden operation:
meticulous long-term planning; a desire to inflict mass casualties; a total
disregard for civilian lives (including Muslims); multiple simultaneous attacks;
and the use of suicide attackers.
I can now confirm that of the 19 hijackers identified from the passenger lists
of the four planes hijacked on 11 September, at least three of these hijackers
have already been positively identified as known associates of Bin Laden, with
a track record in his camps and organisation. The others are being investigated
Of the three, one has also been identified as playing key roles in both the
East African Embassy attacks and the USS Cole attack.
Since the attacks, we have obtained the following intelligence: shortly before
11 September, Bin Laden told associates that he had a major operation against
America under preparation; a range of people were warned to return to Afghanistan
because of action on or around 11 September; and most importantly, one of Bin
Ladens closest lieutenants has said clearly that he helped with the planning
of the 11 September attacks and has admitted the involvement of the Al Qaida
organisation. There is other intelligence we cannot disclose of an even more
direct nature indicating guilt.
The closeness of Bin Ladens relationship with the Taleban is also plain.
He provides the Taleban with troops, arms and money to fight the Northern Alliance.
He is closely involved with the Talebans military training, planning and
operations. He has representatives in the Talebans military command structure.
Forces under the control of Usama Bin Laden have fought alongside the Taleban
in the civil war in Afghanistan.
The Taleban regime, for its part, has provided Bin Laden with a safe haven within
which to operate, and allowed him to establish terrorist training camps. They
jointly exploit the Afghan drugs trade. In return for active Al Qaida support
the Taleban allow Al Qaida to operate freely, including planning, training and
preparing for terrorist activity. In addition they provide security for the
stockpiles of drugs.
Mr Speaker, in the face of this evidence, our immediate objectives are clear.
We must bring Bin Laden and other Al Qaida leaders to justice and eliminate
the terrorist threat they pose. And we must ensure that Afghanistan ceases to
harbour and sustain international terrorism. If the Taleban regime will not
comply with that objective, we must bring about change in that regime to ensure
that Afghanistans links to international terrorism are broken.
Since the House last met, we have been working ceaselessly on the diplomatic,
humanitarian and military fronts.
I can confirm that we have had initial discussions with the US about a range
of military capabilities with which Britain can help and have already responded
positively to this. We will consider carefully any further requests and keep
the House informed as appropriate, about such requests. For obvious reasons
I cannot disclose the exact nature of our discussions. But I am fully satisfied
they are consistent with our shared objectives.
I believe the humanitarian coalition to help the people of Afghanistan to be
as vital as any military action itself.
Afghanistan was in the grip of a humanitarian crisis even before the events
of 11 September. Four years of drought, on top of over two decades of conflict,
have forced millions of people to leave the country; and have left millions
more dependent on international humanitarian aid.
Last week the United Nations launched an appeal for $584 million to meet the
needs of vulnerable people in and around Afghanistan. The appeal covers the
next six months.
The international community has already pledged sufficient funds to meet the
most immediate needs. The British Government has contributed £25 million,
nearly all of which has already been allocated to UN and other agencies. We
have also made available a further £11 million for support for the poorest
communities in Pakistan, especially those most directly affected by the influx
I know President Bush will shortly announce details of a major US programme
I have been in detailed consultation with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan,
the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and other leaders. Kofi Annan
has now appointed Lakhdar Brahimi to be his high level coordinator for the humanitarian
effort in and around Afghanistan. We will give Mr Brahimi all the support we
can, to help ensure that the UN and the whole of the international community
comes together to meet the humanitarian challenge.
Action is already in hand to cope with additional outflows of refugees. UNHCR
are working with the governments of the region to identify sites for additional
refugee camps. The first UNHCR flight of relief supplies, including tents donated
by the British Government, arrived in Iran yesterday. A second flight will depart
at the end of this week, carrying more tents, plastic sheeting and tarpaulins,
so that we can provide essential shelter for refugees.
We are also stepping up the effort to get food into Afghanistan, before the
winter snows begin. A UNICEF convoy carrying blankets and other supplies left
Peshawar for Kabul on Tuesday. A World Food Programme convoy carrying over 200
tonnes of wheat arrived in Kabul on Monday. Further WFP convoys have left for
Afghanistan from Pakistan and Turkmenistan.
We will do what we can to minimise the suffering of the Afghan people as a result
of the conflict; and we commit ourselves to work with them afterwards inside
and outside Afghanistan to ensure a better, more peaceful future free from the
repression and dictatorship that is their present existence.
On the diplomatic front, over the past three weeks the Foreign Secretary and
I have been in intensive contact with foreign leaders from every part of the
world. In addition, the Foreign Secretary has visited the Middle East and Iran.
I have visited Berlin, Paris and Washington for consultations with Chancellor
Schroeder, President Chirac and President Bush respectively. Later today I will
travel to Moscow to meet with President Putin.
What we have encountered is an unprecedented level of solidarity and commitment
to work together against terrorism. This is a commitment that spans all continents,
cultures and religions, reinforced by attacks like the one on the Jammu and
Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar which killed over 30 innocent people.
We have already made good progress in taking forward an international agenda.
Last week the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution
1373. This makes it mandatory for all states to prevent and suppress terrorist
financing and requires the denial of safe haven to who finance, plan, support
or commit terrorist acts.
The European Union too has taken firm action. Transport, interior, finance and
foreign ministers have all met to concert an ambitious and effective European
response: enhancing police co-operation; speeding up extradition; putting an
end to the funding of terrorism; and strengthening air security.
We are also looking closely at our national legislation. In the next few weeks,
the Home Secretary intends to introduce a package of legislation to supplement
existing legal powers in a number of areas. It will be a carefully-appraised
set of measures: tough, but balanced and proportionate to the risk we face.
It will cover the funding of terrorism. It will increase our ability to exclude
and remove those whom we suspect of terrorism and who are seeking to abuse our
asylum procedures. It will widen the law on incitement to include religious
hatred. We will bring forward a bill to modernise our extradition law.
It will not be a knee-jerk reaction. But I emphasise we do need to strengthen
our laws so that, even if necessary only in a small number of cases, we have
the means to protect our citizens liberty and our national security.
We have also ensured, insofar as is possible, that every reasonable measure
of internal security is being undertaken. We have in place a series of contingency
plans, governing all forms of terrorism. These plans are continually reviewed
and tested regularly and at all levels. In addition, we continue to monitor
carefully developments in the British and International economy. Certain sectors
here and around the world have inevitably been seriously affected, though I
repeat the fundamentals of all the major economies, including our own, remain
strong. The reduction of risk from terrorist mass action is important also to
economic confidence as 11 September shows. So there is every incentive in this
respect also, to close down the Bin Laden network.
Mr Speaker, three weeks on from the most appalling act of terrorism the world
has ever witnessed.
The coalition is strong. Military plans are robust. The humanitarian plans are
falling into place.
And the evidence against Bin Laden and his network is overwhelming.
The Afghan people are not our enemy. For they have our sympathy and they will
have our support.
Our enemy is Usama Bin Laden and the Al Qaida network who were responsible for
the events of 11 September. The Taleban regime must yield them up or become
our enemy also. We will not act for revenge. We will act because for the protection
of our people and our way of life, including confidence in our economy, we need
to eliminate the threat Bin Laden and his terrorism represent. We act for justice.
We act with world opinion behind us. And we have an absolute determination to
see justice done, and this evil of mass terrorism confronted and defeated.
Crown copyright material reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO.