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Net users dash to U.K. site for attack details

A British government document detailing evidence of those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks has been posted online, causing a flood of Internet traffic.

The Web site of British Prime Minister Tony Blair was temporarily inaccessible this week after it published a document purporting to prove Osama bin Laden helped plan and execute terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The document has drawn intense interest as a possible source of insight into the U.S. government's case against bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network, which it named prime suspects in the Sept. 11 suicide hijacking. Although the United States shared some information with Britain and other allies, the government has backed off initial promises to present proof to the public.

Visitors waiting to see substantial proof on Blair's Downing Street site may have been disappointed. The document lays out mostly circumstantial evidence, drawing parallels between the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings and previous attacks attributed to bin Laden and his terrorist network--comparisons that have already been widely discussed.

"The modus operandi of 11 September was entirely consistent with previous attacks," reads a typical bullet point in the document.

The site also included Blair's speech to Parliament on Thursday, in which he said the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "bear all the hallmarks of a bin Laden operation" and that "we have absolutely no doubt that bin Laden and his network are responsible for the attacks." Blair added that this was the unanimous view of NATO members.

As people flocked to the Downing Street site to access the document, some found it extremely slow or inaccessible.

Keynote Systems, which measures Internet traffic, said the Web site experienced performance problems after posting the documents early Thursday. By 4 p.m. PDT, the Downing Street site was completely down, Keynote said. The site was unavailable until 12 a.m. Friday and did not reach full availability until 11 a.m.

Keynote said the site's inaccessibility was not necessarily because of high traffic.

"It was unavailable due to 'connection refused errors' or responses, which means that the connection request could not locate the server. And that is often due to the server being taken offline or the site taken offline for changes," said Mary Lindsay, spokeswoman for Keynote. "The bottom line is you couldn't get to it."

The document on the Downing Street site said three of the 19 hijackers have been identified as associates of bin Laden. Of the three, one hijacker has been identified as playing key roles in the U.S. embassy attacks in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi as well as in the USS Cole attack. The document also said one of bin Laden's closest and most senior associates was responsible for the detailed planning of the attacks.