Don't let terrorists stoke fear and divide nation: Obama

A firefighter giving a saluteat the National Sept 11 Memorial and Museum in New York on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.
A firefighter giving a saluteat the National Sept 11 Memorial and Museum in New York on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • United States President Barack Obama has urged Americans to embrace the nation's diversity and not allow "terrorists" to divide the country.

Extremist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "know that they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America", Mr Obama said .

"So, instead, they try to terrorise, in the hope that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other," he said at a memorial service at the Pentagon on Sunday marking the 15th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks. "Our diversity, our patchwork heritage, is not a weakness. It is still and always will be one of our greatest strengths."

In an indirect reference to the controversial anti-Muslim, anti- immigrant campaign rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Mr Obama recalled that Americans were "a people drawn from every corner of the world, every colour, every religion, every background".

Mr Obama has repeatedly criticised Mr Trump's statements, including the billionaire's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US.

The US President observed a moment of silence at the Oval Office on Sunday in honour of the nearly 3,000 people killed during the Sept 11 attacks.

In the 15 years since the Al-Qaeda suicide plane strikes on the Pentagon, New York's World Trade Center and in Pennsylvania, "the threat has evolved", said Mr Obama.

"With our stronger defences, terrorists often attempt attacks on a smaller but still deadly scale," he added, recalling the Boston marathon bombings, the nightclub massacre in Orlando in June and the carnage in San Bernardino.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Don't let terrorists stoke fear and divide nation: Obama'. Print Edition | Subscribe