News24

Security alert ends at US airport

2011-09-11 08:56

Washington - State police explosives experts gave an all-clear on Saturday after investigating a "suspicious item" that forced gate evacuations at Dulles airport near Washington on the eve of 9/11 anniversary events, a spokesperson told AFP.

A item was detected around 16:30, and an area around a cargo container on an airfield was evacuated, said Dulles International Airport spokesperson Robert Yingling.

The evacuation area's perimeter included "a few" gates at concourse B of the facility, the largest international airport near the US capital, the spokesperson said. Those gates were closed for four hours but then reopened, Yingling said.

The Virginia state police Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit declared an all-clear at 20:30, he said.

"The boxes on the cargo pallet were found to have nothing harmful or hazardous," Yingling told AFP.

During the investigation, the airport remained open and operating, the spokesperson said.

The security alert came as the United States was on a tense watch ahead of the 10th anniversary of the landmark terror strikes, the worst on US soil.

One group of 9/11 hijackers took off from Dulles International, west of the US federal capital of Washington, seized the jet - American Airlines flight 77 -and crashed it into the side of the Pentagon.

On Saturday, former president George W Bush joined current Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Bush-era defence chief Donald Rumsfeld at a Pentagon wreath-laying ceremony to honour the Pentagon workers and airline passengers who died there.

Memories remain raw of the day when al-Qaeda hijackers slammed two passenger planes into the World Trade Centre in New York city and a jet into the Pentagon, while a fourth jet crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3 000 people were killed in the attacks.