President Donald Trump is leading a national moment of silence on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump joined with staffers on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday morning to mark the moment when the first plane struck the World Trade Centre 16 years ago.

The president and first lady bowed their heads as bells tolled and then placed their hands over their hearts as "Taps" played.

This is Trump's first 9/11 commemoration ceremony as president.

Trump was in New York during the 2001 attacks, and has offered unverified accounts of friends he lost that day and reports of Muslims celebrating when the World Trade Centre towers collapsed.

He will participate in a 9/11 observance at the Pentagon on Wednesday morning.

Monday's commemoration began with a moment of silence and tolling bells at 08:46.  It's the time when a terrorist-piloted plane slammed into the World Trade Centre's north tower.

Then victims' relatives began reading the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed when four hijacked planes hit the trade centre, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001.

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