- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

U.S. Capitol Police yesterday took two men into custody after one of them told officers there was a bomb in their car near the U.S. Capitol.

Police said no charges will be filed against either man, but the driver has been committed to a local mental facility for further evaluation. The passenger was questioned and released late yesterday.

Officers in the 100 block of First Street in Northwest received the threat about 10:50 a.m., police said. The men were driving a rented gray 2005 Chevrolet Impala, with Florida tags H43 DEJ.

“The occupants of that vehicle made comments to our officers that raised their suspicions,” Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica Gissubel said. “We are characterizing this as a threat [and] we take any threat very seriously.”

Police cordoned off several streets in the area, including portions of Constitution and Louisiana avenues and First Street, while bomb and hazardous materials squads from the Capitol Police, U.S. Park Police, Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. fire department investigated.

The car was parked on First Street between Constitution and Louisiana avenues. Shortly after 1 p.m., police exploded the package inside the car, causing a loud noise that echoed off nearby buildings and blew open the car’s back door.

Officers wearing latex gloves later were seen sorting through the car’s contents, which included clothing and a handbag. At about 1:45 p.m. police opened the cordoned-off roads, except for the portion of First Street where the car was located.

Sgt. Gissubel described the men as being “young in age.” She said officers still did not know exactly what was contained in the package after it had been exploded.

Two private office buildings near the Capitol were evacuated during the incident, but work inside the Capitol and nearby legislative offices was not interrupted. The Senate was in session, but the House had recessed Thursday for the weekend.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said police dismissed the idea that there actually was an explosive in the car.

“I understand from the police that their claim that they have a bomb is not credible,” Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said.

The incident was the third bomb threat in the Baltimore-Washington area this month.

On Oct. 8, a bomb hoax at the Washington Monument prompted the evacuation of the memorial and portions of the Mall, which snarled traffic on nearby streets for about two hours.

On Wednesday, Maryland transportation officials closed sections of Interstate 95 and two tunnels beneath Baltimore’s harbor because of a threat that an explosive-laden vehicle would blow up one of the tunnels.

Three Egyptians and one Jordanian were questioned in connection with the tunnel threat.

All four were in the country illegally and now face deportation.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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