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Seven women who lost men close to them in the World Trade Center see their long-shot legal effort to bankrupt terrorists and their supporters as a crucial step in reassembling their lives. “My canvas has been wiped clean,” said Tara Bane, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a litany of defendants it claims is directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks. “I have to take some kind of action. I will not give up on my life.” Those named in the suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, include accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaida network, Afghanistan’s former Taliban rulers and the estates of the 19 terrorist hijackers. The suit also targets the governments of Iran and Iraq for alleged sponsorship of the terrorists; Zacarias Moussaoui — the only man U.S. authorities have so far charged in the attacks; and 141 individuals and entities whose assets have been frozen by the United States since Sept. 11 for allegedly financing terrorist operations. The action seeks at least $100 billion in total damages. “We intend to bankrupt them,” lead attorney Thomas Mellon said. The plaintiffs are all Pennsylvania residents who lost family members when hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers. They are seeking to have the lawsuit certified as a class action that would eventually include all victims of the New York, Pentagon and Pennsylvania crashes. Describing, at times tearfully, final phone calls and hugs with the men they lost, the awful day of the attacks and the nightmarish weeks since, the women said they are determined to irreversibly cripple the terrorists’ ability to attack again. “Our goal is simple. We want to prevent all those responsible for our losses from ever inflicting such pain on others,” said Fiona Havlish, whose husband, Don, worked on the 101st floor of the South Tower. They emphasized that they have no intention of targeting American companies. They also made it clear that, after months of grieving over past memories and lost futures, it was time for constructive action. The women recognize that they may never recover any money — even if they succeed at the difficult tasks of proving the culpability of the named parties and locating their assets. “We harbor no false illusions,” said Ellen Saracini. “We know this is a difficult path we choose. We know our chances for success are limited. But we must do something.” Sacarini’s husband, Victor, was the pilot of the United Airlines flight that slammed into the South Tower. At the least, Mellon said, they hope to win judgments against the defendants that would prevent them from having access to their assets around the world. Though millions of dollars in assets believed linked to suspected terrorists have already been frozen worldwide, Mellon noted that the United States and other governments do not have the power to seize the funds. There have been several successful lawsuits against Iran, filed under a federal law that allows victims to seek damages from nations that sponsor terrorism. American terror victims have claimed millions from Iran’s frozen assets. The government’s victims compensation fund provides money only for those who forfeit the right to sue — except if the suit is against a terrorist. Justice Department officials have said other victims’ families suing bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban are still eligible for the fund. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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