LONDON (AP) - Astonishing terrorist strikes in the United States quickly reached a global audience Tuesday, with many around the world watching live coverage as both World Trade Center towers collapsed.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets to celebrate, chanting ``God is Great'' and distributing candy to passers-by, even as their leader, Yasser Arafat, expressed horror over the attacks.
Audiences were transfixed by the awful images from New York and Washington, and world leaders expressed solidarity with an America that looked more vulnerable than ever, offering a stream of condolences.
Key indexes sank on world stock markets and some European airlines canceled flights to the United States and recalled planes already in the air. Canada closed all border crossings with the United States, although the border with Mexico remained open.
Many countries beefed up security at American embassies, and in Oslo, Norwegians left bouquets of flowers in a park near the U.S. Embassy. U.S. armed forces in Europe and Asia were put on high alert, and Israel closed its airspace to foreign flights. NATO and European Union institutions also took special security measures, including partial evacuations.
``It is impossible to fully comprehend the evil that would have conjured up such a cowardly and depraved assault upon thousands of innocent people,'' said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences to the American people, calling the attacks ``terrible tragedies.''
``This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today,'' said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. ``It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life, and we the democracies of this world are going to have to come together and fight it together.''
Queen Elizabeth II said she watched developments in ``growing disbelief and total shock'' and offered her prayers to Americans.
President Jacques Chirac of France called the attacks ``monstrous.''
``There is no other word for it,'' he said in a televised statement.
Arafat and his top aides followed the events at his seaside office in Gaza City, gathered around a TV set.
``I send my condolences to the president, the government and the people for this terrible incident,'' Arafat said. ``We are completely shocked. It's unbelievable.''
Afghanistan's hard-line Taliban rulers also condemned the attacks and rejected suggestions that Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who has been given asylum in Afghanistan, was behind them.
The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said bin Laden would not be able to carry out such well-orchestrated strikes. ``It is premature to level allegations against a person who is not in a position to carry out such attacks,'' he said.
The leaders of Northern Ireland's joint Protestant-Catholic government, Reg Empey and Seamus Mallon, also offered condolences.
``As a society that has suffered from the effects of terrorism for over 30 years, we have some recognition and understanding of the hurt being felt by the American people,'' they wrote. ``It is hard to comprehend what could motivate anyone to cause such misery, destruction and deliberate loss of human life.''
In Berlin, Foreign Ministry officials huddled in a crisis meeting.
Virtually all German TV channels switched to live coverage. ``This is pure mass murder,'' one commentator said.
``My government condemns these terrorist attacks to the utmost,'' said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Airlines including British Airways, Scandinavia's SAS and Belgium's Sabena canceled flights across the Atlantic and recalled planes that were already in the air.
In Puerto Rico, people scrambled for news of relatives and friends in New York, where an estimated 2 million Puerto Ricans live.
Groups gathered on the corners of cobble-stoned streets in the colonial city of San Juan, clinging to strangers in search of more details.
``Dios mio, have mercy!'' exclaimed a whited-haired man, making the sign of the cross as he watched the second tower explode on TV.
Broadcasters around the world broke into programming to show images of the disaster. ``It's incredible. I thought I was watching a Hollywood movie,'' said Hong Kong school teacher Doris Tang.
In the Nigerian capital of Abuja, aghast hotel workers at the local Hilton stopped their chores to watch.
``If this can happen in America, then the whole world is not safe,'' said one, Augustine Okweche.