Political and spiritual leaders throughout the world have expressed shock, outrage, disbelief and condemnation - including a representative of Afghanistan's Taliban leaders who have given shelter to Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press: "This is a terrorist act and we strongly condemn it."

In Gaza, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said he abhorred the catastrophe.


"We completely condemn this ...We were completely shocked. It's unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable."

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark described the attacks as a horror story.

"It's the sort of thing the worst movie scenario wouldn't dream up," she said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain stood "shoulder to shoulder" with Washington: "This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life."

Queen Elizabeth II said she was watching developments with "growing disbelief and total shock".

French President Jacques Chirac commented: "France has always condemned terrorism, condemns it without reserve and thinks we must fight terrorism by all means."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder promised President Bush "unlimited solidarity" in a letter of condolence.

The European Union (EU) described the attack as the worst on America since Pearl Harbor 60 years ago and as "one of those few days in life that one can actually say will change everything".

EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten added: "This is an act of war by madmen."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a "Dear George" telegram to President Bush, said:

"Such an inhuman act must not go unpunished. The entire international community should unite in the struggle against terrorism."

Pope John Paul condemned the attacks, calling them an "unspeakable horror" which had thrust the nation into a "dark and tragic moment".

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi said: "I am shocked at the terrifying, insane terrorist attack which has hit the people of a friendly nation as well as the conscience of the entire world."

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said: "It is impossible to fully comprehend the evil that would have conjured up such a cowardly and depraved assault."

Mexico's President Vicente Fox said: "We reiterate our total, categorical rejection of all forms of violence, of all forms of terrorism."

Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar called it a "terrorist frenzy", and Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer as "simply a terrible thing".

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said: "This incident in the United States is extremely cowardly and is beyond what any words can describe ... This sort of terrorism will never be forgiven and we feel strong anger."

The military ruler of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, said: "The world must unite to fight against terrorism in all its forms and root out this modern day evil."

Chinese President Jiang Zemin sent President Bush a message of sympathy, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian expressed shock, and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said he was deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives.

The Islamic militant group Hamas denied any connection with the attack.

Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said: "We in Hamas, our battle is on the Palestinian land. We are not ready to move our battle out of the occupied Palestinian territories."

But in Palestine, there were some celebrations.

A 24-year-old gunman named only as Mustafa, remarked: "I feel I am in a dream. I never believed that one day the United States would come to pay a price for its support to Israel."

The New Zealand Herald will publish a special print edition with coverage of the terrorist attacks. It will be available in Auckland from noon today.

Emergency telephone numbers for friends and family of victims

These numbers are valid for calls from within New Zealand, but may be overloaded at the moment.

United Airlines: 0168 1800 932 8555

American Airlines: 0168 1800 245 0999

NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade special hotline: 0800 872 111

The fatal flights

Four aircraft crashed during multiple terrorist attacks in the United States this morning.

United Airlines flight 93

(Boeing 757) from Newark to San Francisco with 38 passengers, 5 flight attendants and 2 pilots, crashed near Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

United Airlines flight 175

(Boeing 767) from Boston to Los Angeles with 56 passengers, 7 flight attendants and 2 pilots, crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

American Airlines flight 11

(Boeing 767) from Boston to Los Angeles with 81 passengers, nine flight attendants and two pilots crashed into the World Trade Center.

American Airlines flight 77

(Boeing 757) operating from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles with 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots, crashed into the Pentagon near Washington DC.