Passengers on board flight 93 prevented attack on Washington

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The Independent US

One of the most enduring stories of the 11 September attacks - that passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 took on the hijackers and forced them to abort a second attack on Washington - did happen, the 9/11 report concluded.

One of the most enduring stories of the 11 September attacks - that passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 took on the hijackers and forced them to abort a second attack on Washington - did happen, the 9/11 report concluded.

Voice recordings suggest that while the passengers never managed to storm the cockpit of the plane, they did force the hijackers to abort their planned attack on either the White House or the Capitol building.

In phone calls from the jet, four passengers said they and others planned to fight the hijackers after learning of the attacks on the World Trade Centre earlier that morning.

With the words "Let's roll" - declared famously by passenger Todd Beamer - he and other passengers rushed down the aircraft's narrow aisle to try to overwhelm the hijackers.

Relying on the cockpit recorder and flight data, the commission said the hijackers' pilot, Ziad Jarrah, rocked the jet's wings and told another hijacker to block the door as the passengers approached.

With the sounds of fighting outside the cockpit, Jarrah asked: "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" Another hijacker, who wasn't identified, replied: "No, not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."

Jarrah then began pitching the nose of the plane up and down to throw passengers off balance. Seconds later, a passenger who wasn't identified yelled: "In the cockpit! If we don't, we die!" And 16 seconds afterward, another passenger yelled: "Roll it!"

Jarrah said: "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!", and he asked his fellow hijacker: "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" The other hijacker answered: "Yes, put it in, and pull it down."

Roughly 90 seconds later, the jet rolled on to its back and crashed into a Pennsylvania field close to the village of Shanksville at 580mph. Everybody aboard was killed.

The report revealed how the hijackers' ring-leader, Mohammed Atta, and another leading planner, Ramzi Binalshibh, used a code to discuss the targets that they would target on the morning of 11 September.

Pretending to be students the two men used "architecture" to refer to the World Trade Centre, "arts" to refer to the Pentagon, "law" to mean the Capitol building and "politics" to the White House. It is assumed that Flight 93 was on route to one of the last two targets when the passengers attacked the hijackers.

That incident, remembered by a memorial close to the field where the plane crashed, became one of the few uplifting stories to emerge from the carnage of that day.

The report noted: "Jarrah's objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American republic, the Capitol or the White House. He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93."

THE REPORT'S RECOMMENDATIONS

* To create a national counter-terrorism centre "unifying strategic intelligence and operational planning against Islamist terrorists across the foreign and the domestic divide"

* To appoint a new Senate-confirmed national intelligence director to unify the intelligence community of more than dozen agencies

* To create a "network-based information sharing system that transcends traditional governmental boundaries"

* To set up a specialised and integrated national security unit within the FBI (the report did not support creation of a new domestic intelligence agency)

* To strengthen congressional oversight

* To strengthen the FBI and Homeland defenders

* In aviation, to make vital improvements to "no fly" and "automatic selectee" lists, giving priority to improvement of the screening of passengers and bags for weapons and explosives at airport security checkpoints

* To develop a global strategy of diplomacy and public relations to dismantle Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida terror network and defeat its militant Islamic ideology

* To communicate and defend American ideals in the Islamic world, through much stronger public diplomacy comparable with efforts against closed societies during the Cold War

* To confront problems with Saudi Arabia in the open and build a relationship beyond oil, which both sides can defend to citizens and which includes a shared commitment to reform

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