Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Suspect Arrested In Connection With Suspicious Packages Found at D.C.-Area Military Bases

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On the night of March 26, authorities in Washington State arrested a man in connection with a series of suspicious packages that were found earlier in the day at military bases in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Thanh Cong Phan was arrested at his home in Everett, Washington, NPR said, citing a statement from the FBI. The suspect was taken into custody by FBI agents from the Seattle field office and Snohomish County sheriff's deputies around 12 hours after the first package was discovered.

Phan was scheduled to appear later Tuesday in federal court in the western district of Washington State. Authorities released no further information about Phan, but his name is Vietnamese.

The Associated Press reported that the packages “contained black powder along with rambling, nonsensical notes similar to those the man has been known to send in the past.... Authorities did not name the man, but said he was known to law enforcement.”

“The FBI investigation determined that the packages contained potential destructive devices and appeared to be sent by the same individual,” an announcement released by the bureau said.

Three military bases in the greater D.C. area reported receiving packages containing explosive materials, but the packages' dangers were detected before they could be opened.

NBC News reported that after the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington received a suspicious package about 8:30 a.m., the building was evacuated. “At 12:10 p.m., 52nd Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal from Fort Belvoir, VA, confirmed the package tested positive for black powder and residue,” Army spokesman Michael Howard said in a statement quoted by CNN. “The X-ray conducted indicates suspected GPS and an expedient fuse were attached. The package was rendered safe. No injuries are reported.”

The package was rendered safe after a K-9 sweep, and the building was cleared about 1:15 p.m. 

CNN also quoted a statement from Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, who said DOD officials are aware of the situation and it is being investigated. “We are tracking the delivery of suspicious packages to multiple military installations in the National Capital Region. This incident is currently under investigation and we refer all queries to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Baldanza said.

In addition to Fort McNair, other suspicious packages were discovered at two locations within Fort Belvoir in Fairfax, Virginia — the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Acquisition University. One contained liquid in a vial and a circuit board, a law-enforcement official said. It also was rendered safe. Other suspicious packages were found at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington and the Dahlgren (Virginia) Naval Surface Warfare Center, located about 55 miles south of Washington.

All of the packages are being analyzed in the FBI forensics lab at Quantico. “The FBI responded to multiple government facilities today for the reports of suspicious packages," the bureau said in a statement quoted by CBS News. “Each package was collected for further analysis by the FBI.”

All government facilities have been screening everything coming into federal facility mailrooms, a source told CBS News. During screening, the packages were found to be suspicious, although it is not known what made them suspicious.

NPR reported that the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service also are working to see whether any other suspicious packages might be moving through the mail to other potential targets in the Washington D.C. area.

Photo: Fort McNair website

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