- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

A bomb hoax at the Washington Monument yesterday prompted the evacuation of the monument and the Mall, which knotted traffic on nearby streets for about two hours.

The Metropolitan Police Department received a suspicious call about the monument at 2:24 p.m., U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said. Park Police immediately evacuated visitors inside the monument and on its grounds and began searching for explosive devices.

“There were people in the Washington Monument that U.S. Park Police and National Park Police rangers were able to get down safely,” Sgt. Fear said. “Then we just followed standard procedure.”

Bomb-sniffing dogs scoured the monument and its grounds, while Park Police blocked off Constitution and Independence avenues and 15th and 17th streets.

National Park Service spokesman Bill Line said the closures caused “a good amount of backup” on westbound portions of Constitution and Independence avenues.

“It’s typical because you’re getting into that time period on Friday when you’re going to have heavy traffic,” Mr. Line said.

Police reopened the monument and the streets at about 4:15 p.m. “We did not find any explosives in the area,” Sgt. Fear said.

Sgt. Fear said he could not discuss the nature of the threatening call.

Metro officials said Park Police told them the call may have been made at the Tenleytown station in Northwest. Video from surveillance cameras in that station will be reviewed for clues, officials said.

The bomb threat occurred one day after the FBI and New York City officials mobilized extra police to protect the city’s subway because of threats that the system soon could be the target of a terrorist attack.

Homeland Security officials in the District said the threat in New York was of “doubtful credibility.” But New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the threat was the most specific the city had received to date and ordered police officers to begin looking through commuters’ bags, briefcases, luggage and strollers.

The Mall and Washington Monument previously have been the target of phony threats.

In March 2003, a disgruntled North Carolina tobacco farmer drove a tractor pulling a Jeep and flatbed trailer into a small park and pond near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Washington Monument.

Dwight Ware Watson told police he had explosives on the trailer and demanded that the city be evacuated because he wanted to bring Washington “to its knees.”

The threat caused more than 200 police officers to patrol a 400-yard security zone around the tractor until Watson surrendered 48 hours later. Police found a nonexplosive practice grenade in his possession.

During the incident, thousands of commuters were inconvenienced by the closing of Constitution Avenue, and access to several federal offices was restricted.

Watson served most of a 16-month prison sentence before being released in July 2004.

This article is based in part on wire service reports

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