- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

An explosion of unknown origin ripped through an empty classroom at Yale University’s law school yesterday, causing extensive damage but no injuries, federal and state authorities said.

Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said the explosion was caused by some sort of “device,” although she did not elaborate, saying only that damage to the building was limited. She said she was unaware if any classes were being held at the time of the blast, although others said some law students had just finished taking a final exam in the classroom.

The FBI in New Haven immediately dispatched its terrorism task force to the site. There was no immediate indication that the explosion was terrorism related.

The explosion, which occurred about 5 p.m., sent some students and faculty members scurrying for cover. Debris littered the area. The law school is generally quiet at this time of the year with the university’s undergraduate class commencement scheduled for next week.

“I saw a huge fireball come out to the middle of the hallway,” said law student Bob Hoo, who was in a hallway on the ground floor of the law school. “It was there and then it was gone.”

Law student Alexandra Alperovich, who was sitting in the student lounge, told reporters she saw a wall to the alumni lounge collapse after the explosion, but was not sure whether anyone was inside. She said “everything started falling” and she immediately ran from the building.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said he knew of no threats having been delivered beforehand. New Haven police and fire units evacuated the building and closed off the block around the law school. Ambulances went to the scene, but police and local hospitals reported no injuries.

Police bomb squad officers searched the area for other devices. A police tow truck removed a Dodge Caravan from the scene, although there was no explanation of whether the vehicle was connected to the explosion.

Smoke and dust billowed out of the classroom, according to several witnesses, although there was no evidence of a fire. The floor of the classroom reportedly partly collapsed.

On Tuesday, the Bush administration raised the nation’s terror alert level from yellow, or elevated, to orange, or high, in response to terrorism attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco that killed 75 persons, including eight Americans. The FBI also said it was concerned that the al Qaeda terrorist network was mobilizing for new strikes.

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