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
These acts are without any justification whatever and the
full force of the law will be used against those who do
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 Laden’s 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 duty".
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, thankfully thwarted.
- 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 still.
Of the three, one has also been identified as playing key
roles in both the East African Embassy attacks and the USS
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 Laden’s 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 Laden’s 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 Taleban’s military training, planning and
operations. He has representatives in the Taleban’s military
command structure. Forces under the control of Usama Bin
Laden have fought alongside the Taleban in the civil war in
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 Afghanistan’s
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 of refugees.
I know President Bush will shortly announce details of a
major US programme of aid.
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
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
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
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
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.