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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Concern as presidential hopeful Clinton collapses 9/11 commemoration

Hillary Clinton waving to crowds after earlier becoming unwell at the 9/11 memorial
Hillary Clinton waving to crowds after earlier becoming unwell at the 9/11 memorial

The US presidential campaign has received a huge jolt of drama after Hillary Clinton left early from a 9/11 memorial event after becoming unwell - triggering fresh speculation about her health.

Video footage showed the former secretary of state apparently sagging and buckling as she waited for her vehicle and had to be helped inside.

In a move that was quickly seized on by opponents of Ms Clinton who have sought to try question her health, the Democratic candidate left the event at Ground Zero in New York after 90 minutes and went to her daughter's apartment to recover. As she waited, propped against a cement pillar, she appeared to wobble and stagger. Many people rushed to help her into the black van and was then driven away.

Her spokesman, Nick Merrill, said that she left after feeling overheated at the event to mark the 15th anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington, where she had gone to pay her respects to some of the families who lost loved ones. Almost 3,000 people died in the attacks.

It was hot and humid in the city and Ms Clinton (68), dressed in a dark jacket and trousers, was standing for much of the event.

"During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter's apartment, and is feeling much better," Mr Merrill said in a statement.

Shortly before noon, Ms Clinton was seen leaving the flat and waving to the crowd.

She briefly posed for a photograph with a young girl. To a shouted question from a reporter as to whether she felt better, she said: "Yes, thank you."

She added: "It's a beautiful day in New York."

Her campaign said she was heading to her home to Chappaqua, in upstate New York.

The news was first reported by Fox News, one of the outlets that has been a platform for claims by 70-year-old Donald Trump that Ms Clinton has been hiding a medical condition from the public.

Suffering

One anchor, Sean Hannity, has interviewed various doctors, none neurologists, who have suggested Ms Clinton could be suffering from any of number of issues. The Clinton campaign has repeatedly denied the suggestions.

Fox News said that Ms Clinton had left the memorial and lost a shoe as she entered her Secret Service vehicle. It said that a police source at the scene, said a member of her security detail had to recover the shoe.

A senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the matter said that after leaving the memorial plaza, Clinton was observed "fainting" in a departure area. Ms Clinton's campaign did not refer to this in its statement, though video of her at the scene showed Ms Clinton looking unsteady.

Ms Clinton has insisted she is in fine health and ready to assume duties in the White House. Her campaign has played down health scares, including an incident in December 2012 when she suffered a concussion and shortly afterward developed a blood clot.

In a letter released by her doctor in July, Ms Clinton was described as being in "excellent health" and "fit to serve" in the White House.

Reuters said that Ms Clinton's speech at a campaign rally earlier this month in Cleveland was interrupted by a coughing spell. During the speech, she quipped, "Every time I think about Trump I get allergic." She then resumed her speech.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama marked the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks by calling on Americans to embrace the nation's character as a people drawn from every corner of the world, from every religion and from every background. He said extremist groups will never be able to defeat the United States.

Obama spoke to hundreds of service members, and relatives and survivors of the attack that occurred at the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Defence Department's headquarters, killing 184 people. The youngest victim was only three years old.

In all, about 3,000 people lost their lives that day as a result of the planes that crashed into New York City's World Trade Centre and in a Pennsylvania field.

Extremist

The president said extremist organisations such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaida know they can never drive down the US, so they focus on trying to instil fear in hopes of getting Americans to change how they live.

"We know that our diversity, our patchwork heritage is not a weakness, it is still and always will be one of our greatest strengths," Obama said. "This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to."

Obama spoke on warm, mostly sunny morning, noting that the threat that became so evident on September 11 has evolved greatly over the past 15 years.

Terrorists, he said, often attempt strikes on a smaller, but still deadly scale. He specifically cited attacks in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando as examples.

In the end, he said, the enduring memorial to those who lost their lives that day is ensuring "that we stay true to ourselves, that we stay true to what's best in us, that we do not let others divide us."

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