Bush Threatens Bin Laden Dow Jones Plummets on First Day

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters)–President George W. Bush said on Monday he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive" for last week’s attacks on the United States that left more than 5,000 people dead or missing–as a jittery New York Stock Exchange reopened and plunged almost 7 percent.

As Bush again warned Afghanistan’s Islamic rulers to give up the Saudi-born bin Laden–a delegation of officials from Pakistan held talks in Kabul with leaders of the Islamic Taliban government. But there was no clear sign the man they call their "guest" would be handed over.

US stock markets reopened after a four-day shutdown and the Dow Jones industrial index promptly fell by 5 percent. It stabilized for a few hours but resumed its fall in afternoon trading–losing more than 660 points or almost 7 percent.

The fall came despite efforts by the Federal Reserve to inject new life into the economy and prevent panic by cutting interest rates by half a percentage point before the market opened. The Nasdaq was off more than 100 points or 6 percent.

One of the few companies bucking the trend was handgun maker Sturm Ruger & Co.–whose shares rose 15 percent–an indication that the market foresees more gun sales to nervous Americans seeking personal protection.

Firefighters and police officers–honoring more than 300 of their colleagues who are dead or missing–rang the opening bell at the New York stock exchange–a mere three blocks from the ruins of the World Trade Center–where thousands of people caught in last Tuesday’s kamikaze attacks still lie entombed.

The latest toll of missing people in New York is 4,957–with 190 more confirmed dead. Another 188 died at the Pentagon and 45 in the crash of a hijacked plane in Pennsylvania.

In a nervous Washington–the Justice Department was briefly evacuated after a bomb threat and the Federal Communications Commission building was emptied while an unidentified package was checked. Attorney General John Ashcroft said associates of hijackers who smashed jetliners into in New York and Washington may still be in the country. Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Pentagon–Bush put Afghanistan’s radical Islamic Taliban government on notice that it would also be held accountable for last Tuesday’s strikes unless it withdrew protection of bin Laden and his organization.

Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutamaen told the Afghan Islamic Press agency the country’s senior Islamic clerics would meet on Tuesday "to fully discuss and take a decision on the latest situation arising out of a possible attack by the United States and Osama bin Laden."

Mutamaen said the Taliban held "positive" talks with Pakistani officials on bin Laden’s status. Pakistan is seeking to convince the Taliban of the danger they face from possible US retaliation and persuade them to hand over bin Laden.

Officials began fleeing the Afghan capital of Kabul amid growing expectations of a US attack–and the Taliban moved weapons–including Russian Scud missiles–near the border with Pakistan–a nuclear power.

Asked if he wanted to see death for bin Laden–considered by Washington the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 hijacks–Bush said: "I want justice. And there’s an old poster out West that says–’Wanted: Dead or Alive."’

"We are going to find those evildoers–those barbaric people who attacked our country–and we’re going to hold them accountable–and we’re going to hold the people who house them accountable–the people who think they can provide them safe havens will be held accountable–the people who feed them will be held accountable–and the Taliban must take my statement seriously," Bush said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said a presidential directive barring the United States government from engaging in assassination does not prevent Washington from acting in "self defense."

A Reuters/Zogby poll found 71 percent of American voters were ready to see the United States go to war against countries which "harbor or aid terrorists" even if it meant suffering substantial US casualties; 21 percent were opposed.

The White House has vowed retaliation after 19 men hijacked four commercial planes–crashing two of them into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers apparently struggled with the hijackers.

Bush has repeatedly singled out bin Laden as the prime suspect. Bin Laden is reported to have denied responsibility. Secretary of State Colin Powell said all roads led to Bin Laden as the prime suspect of the attacks.

Islamabad has reinforced its own frontier–with troops fanning out along the length of the porous 870-mile long border. Tens of thousands of Afghans fled several major cities and headed for the borders with Pakistan and Iran.

In New York–hope virtually died of finding any survivors from last Tuesday’s attacks. No one has been pulled alive from the towers’ wreckage since last Wednesday and the task now seemed to be focused primarily on identifying body parts.

Just three blocks away–Wall Street’s reopening after a four-day shutdown ended its longest shutdown since the 1930s Great Depression. Computer systems held up well and trading was orderly.

With Washington’s war talk fueling uncertainty and fears of a global recession–traders had been prepared for declines. The White House said the economy was fundamentally strong.

As Bush rallied a global coalition for war against those who staged the attacks–he heard encouraging sounds of support from European allies but also some notes of caution.

British defense sources said around 20,000 British troops on planned exercises in the Middle East could be deployed if needed in a military response to last week’s attacks.

Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino said his country was also ready to deploy troops and aircraft if requested.

The cost of the attacks will be colossal. Ahead of the Wall Street opening–the government signaled it was ready to provide economic props to try and keep the United States from sliding deeper into a downturn.

The Bank of Japan–desperate to prevent its currency rising–bought dollars for the first time in nearly a year.

Rescue workers labored for a seventh day over the ruins of the towers in the heart of New York’s financial district. The body of a male air crew member was found bound hand and foot–a police source said. Earlier–the body of a flight attendant was found with her hands bound.

Nearby–thousands of posters of those missing covered bus shelters–telephone booths and subway walls. One had a telephone number and a photograph of a toddler playing with her father. It read: "Have you seen my Daddy? Jason Jacobs."

The FBI has 4,000 agents tracking 40,000 leads. US officials said two more "material witnesses" had been taken into custody–joining two others already detained.

A further 25 people were taken into custody on alleged immigration violations and were being questioned. The FBI was seeking more than 100 others for questioning.

Investigators hoped the arrests and detentions would eventually lead them to bin Laden.


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