False alarm sees US Capitol evacuated

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Washington (AFP) – The US Capitol was briefly evacuated on Wednesday after a false alarm saw police tracking a plane they described as a ‘likely threat’ – but which was found to be carrying paratroopers as part of a pre-show – baseball game.

Police tasked with protecting the compound at the heart of the US government in Washington released an initial statement shortly after 6:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) saying they had ordered an evacuation as they were “tracking an aircraft that poses a likely threat”.

They did not give further details.

The news made headlines within minutes in the United States, where memories of the September 11, 2001 attacks – which saw al-Qaeda fly jetliners to the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington – are always poignant. .

But police quickly released a second statement to say the order had been issued “out of an abundance of caution” and there was “no threat” to the resort.

“The aircraft no longer poses a threat to the Capitol complex and the USCP is currently preparing the buildings for re-entry,” the United States Capitol Police update said.

Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate, the chambers of Congress located on the Capitol, were in session at the time of the scare.

There was no immediate explanation for the order, but unverified reports suggested it had come after a parachute demonstration at nearby Washington Nationals Park, a baseball stadium, as part of a broadcast. pregame for “Military Appreciation Night”.

NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted that he “just saw people skydiving over/near the US Capitol amid an evacuation order.”

NBC, citing police, said they were part of a Golden Knights protest at the stadium. The Golden Knights are the United States Army’s official aerial parachute display team.

“It looks like they may not have told the Capitol Police that they would be in airspace. An officer here told me she saw the small plane appear in a circle before the paratroopers don’t jump,” Haake tweeted.

The stadium is approximately 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) from the Capitol. The Nationals played the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.

The US Capitol was the focal point of a real violent attack just 15 months ago, on January 6, 2021, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the building in an attempt prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Although Wednesday’s scare was a false alarm, lawmakers and visitors were shaken by the warning.

“We just went through a very stressful 15 minutes, but we are grateful that everyone is safe,” said MP Teresa Leger Fernández on Twitter.

Two young Swiss tourists visiting Washington said they were heading to the historic white-domed Capitol to take a tour when police waved them away from the structure.

“They closed the security gates behind us. They didn’t tell us why and I thought it best not to ask,” said one of the tourists, who asked not to be named.

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