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9/11 conspiracy theories rife in Muslim world

FILE - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in this Sept. 23, 2010 file photo. Amhadinejad declared to the United Nations that most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Surveys show that a majority of the world does not in fact believe that. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)
FILE - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in this Sept. 23, 2010 file photo. Amhadinejad declared to the United Nations that most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Surveys show that a majority of the world does not in fact believe that. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File) (Jason Decrow - AP)

The record shows that al-Qaida agents on a suicide mission hijacked four American passenger planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people. The evidence is immense: witness accounts, audio recordings, video and photographic documentation, exhaustive investigations and claims of responsibility by al-Qaida.

Yet every fact and official assertion only feeds into alternative views that become amplified on the Internet, some tinged with anti-Semitism because of the close U.S.-Israeli alliance. They theorize that a knowing U.S. government stood by as the plot unfolded, or that controlled demolitions destroyed the Twin Towers, and the Pentagon was hit by a missile.

"All this, of course, would require hundreds if not thousands of people to be in on the plot. It speaks volumes for the determination to believe something," said David Aaronovitch, the British author of "Voodoo Histories: the role of Conspiracy Theory in Modern History."

"This kind of theory really does have a big impact in the Middle East," he said. "It gets in the way of thinking seriously about the problems in the area and what should be done."

A U.S. State Department website devotes space to debunking conspiracy theories about Sept. 11, in the apparent belief that the allegations must be addressed forcefully rather than dismissed out of hand as the ruminations of a fringe group.

"Conspiracy theories exist in the realm of myth, where imaginations run wild, fears trump facts, and evidence is ignored. As a superpower, the United States is often cast as a villain in these dramas," the site says.

Tod Fletcher of Petaluma, California, has worked as an assistant to David Ray Griffin, a retired theology professor, on books that question the Sept. 11 record. He was cautious about the Iranian president's comments about conspiracy theories, suggesting Ahmadinejad may have been politically motivated by his enmity with the U.S. government.

"It seems like it's the sort of thing that could lead to further vilification of people who criticize the official account here in the United States," Fletcher said.

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Torchia reported from Istanbul. Associated Press Writers Gulden Alp in Ankara, Turkey, and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.


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