Govt. has responsibility to shoot down hijacked planes - Howard

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard said Sunday the government has the responsibility to shoot down hijacked airliners that threaten targets on the ground, as the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches.

‘’I hope it remains completely hypothetical, but in the end, one has to do that,’’ Howard told Nine Network Television about giving the air force the shoot-down order.

‘’But let us hope and pray that that doesn’t ever arise,’’ he said.

Terrorists hijacked four airliners in the United States on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. They crashed two into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York, one into the Pentagon, and one into a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

None of the four planes were intercepted by fighter jets or shot down, according to the official Sept. 11 investigations.

Howard was in Washington D.C. when the Pentagon was attacked, after having his first official meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush the previous day.

‘’We didn’t talk about terrorism,’’ said Howard, recalling his conversation with Bush. ‘’We didn’t know it was coming, and that made it all the more horrific.’’

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States in its war on terror, has never experienced a major terrorist attack on its shores.


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