LONDON (AP) Governments around the world offered condolences to an America that looked more vulnerable than ever after yesterday”s terror attacks, but thousands of Palestinians celebrated in the West Bank and in Lebanese refugee camps.
People on every continent watched in horror as astonishing images of terror in the United States filled their television screens. But in the West Bank town of Nablus, Palestinians cheered and distributed candy to passers-by, and Iraqi television played a patriotic song that began “Down with America!” as it showed the World Trade Center towers collapsing.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat offered his sympathy to Americans and said he was horrified by the devastating attacks, which also hit the Pentagon.
Leaders around the world including most in the Middle East offered messages of support.
Afghanistan”s Taliban rulers condemned the attacks and rejected suggestions that suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who has been given asylum in Afghanistan, could be behind them.
“It is premature to level allegations against a person who is not in a position to carry out such attacks,” said Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan. “It was a well-organized plan and Osama has no such facilities.”
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, one of three countries that recognize the Taliban”s government, condemned the attacks and called for cooperation to combat the “modern-day evil” of terrorism.
Key indexes sank on world stock markets and many European and Asian airlines canceled flights to the United States and recalled planes already in the air.
Britain and Belgium banned commercial flights over their capitals, and Britain warned its citizens traveling in the United States to beware of possible further attacks. Israel closed its airspace to foreign flights and evacuated staff from diplomatic missions and Jewish institutions around the world.
In the West Bank town of Nablus, about 3,000 people poured into the streets shortly after the attacks began, chanting “God is Great” and handing out candy in a traditional gesture of celebration.
There were no reports of celebrations elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza.
Sheik Ahmed Yassin, whose Islamic militant Hamas group has carried out a series of suicide bombings in Israel, said he was not interested in exporting such attacks to the United States.
“We are not ready to move our struggle outside the occupied Palestinian land. We are not prepared to open international fronts, however much we criticize the unfair American position,” Yassin told reporters in Gaza City.
In Ein el-Hilweh, Lebanon”s largest refugee camp, where about 75,000 Palestinians live, revelers fired weapons in the air, witnesses said. Similar celebratory gunfire was heard at the Rashidiyeh camp near the southern city of Tyre.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whom the United States has accused of backing international terrorism, called the attacks “horrifying” and urged Muslim aid groups to offer help “regardless of political considerations or differences between America and the peoples of the world.”