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WJLA-TV is reporting an “escalated response” to today’s suspicious package at 19th and F Streets NW, which had authorities tied up for five hours, sealing off several square blocks surrounding the World Bank and parts of the George Washington University campus.
Some witnesses may have even heard a “small explosion,” according the local ABC affiliate’s Jennifer Donelan, who describes the overall level of police response as “much greater than normal, especially since the city sees as many as four suspicious-object calls a day.”
Police Chief Cathy Lanier is reportedly on the scene, along with U.S. Secret Service.
The television news report somewhat differs from a more down-played account in the college press. The GW Hatchet quotes MPD spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump describing the package as “not hazardous,” adding, however, “They are still in the process of examining it.”
UPDATE, 1:20 p.m.-D.C. Fire and EMS confirms via Twitter “no hazard” and “no injuries.” MPD is investigating.
UPDATE, 1:40p.m.-Bomb squad units have “‘disrupted’ the object,” WJLA reports, which authorities now describe as harmless:
George Washington University students, who had a clear view of the object, described it as a pipe wrapped in black tape, apparently to simulate the appearance of a pipe bomb.
The FBI has taken over the investigation of the incident, setting up a tent on 19th Street.
UPDATE, 2:14 p.m.-CNN reports that a “terrorism task force” will now study today’s incident as a sort of object lesson in suspicious objects: “The focus of police attention appeared to be a hoax device that looked like a long microphone with tape on it, a law enforcement source said. It also could have looked like a pipe, the source said.”
UPDATE, 2:18 p.m.-“19th Street mostly reopen,” WaPo’s Dr. Gridlock reports, “Authorities report the item was in a suitcase and a portion of the street will remain closed for about another 30 minutes.”
UPDATE, 2:20 p.m.-The FBI tells WaPo the suspicious package at 19th and F streets NW contained “what looked like a pipe bomb, but it was not a bomb.”
UPDATE, 3 p.m.-Not to be outdone, WTOP now reports on another suspicious package across town in Columbia Heights, where the local Metro station is closed on account of the curious object: “D.C. Police say the package is a silver and black briefcase at the corner of 14th and Irving streets in Northwest. Part of 14th Street is also closed in the area.”
UPDATE, 3:31 p.m.- WaPo’s Rick Rojas reports from the scene that the suspicious package turns out to be “a suitcase full of tools,” screwdrivers and such. It looked like “old-school luggage,” Rojas notes. The Columbia Heights Metro station is now back open.
UPDATE, 3:58 p.m.-“Fans gather around ‘suspicious package’ outside Nationals Park,” according to a Mediabistro report. Turns out to be the name of a rock band performing at the 49th annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.