Top US military cemetery on ‘bomb threat’ lockdown
The Arlington National Cemetery just outside the US capital was closed to the public on Friday, after an email claimed the presence of a bomb on the premises. All scheduled funerals were delayed until further notice.
“The cemetery’s response teams and local law enforcement partners are on site investigating the threat. The public is requested to avoid the area and wait for updates,” the cemetery said in a statement posted on all of its social media accounts.
The closure was announced shortly after 9am. Arlington County police assisted military personnel at Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall in investigating the bomb report, according to local media. A K-9 unit was dispatched to the cemetery on Friday morning, to address the threat that arrived via email.
Shortly after 3pm local time, the cemetery announced that “nothing suspicious was found, and law enforcement safely cleared all areas.” Arlington will remain closed to the public for the remainder of the day, however, to focus on the funerals that had been delayed by the disturbance.
“Every threat to Arlington National Cemetery is taken seriously,” said director Karen Durham-Aguilera. “We will spend the remainder of the day focused on our mission of laying our service members and their loved ones to rest.”
Arlington is one of the two national cemeteries administered by the US military. Some 400,000 members of the military and their spouses are buried in the 259-hectare (639 acre) area of Virginia, overlooking Washington, DC across the Potomac River.
The 3rd US Infantry Division, also known as ‘The Old Guard’, is based at the adjacent Myer-Henderson Hall and keeps watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The cemetery traces its origin to the Civil War, when the manor at the top of the hill – built by the adopted grandson of George Washington, the first US president – was used to bury Union soldiers killed in battle. The property was seized from Robert E. Lee, who was a top general in the Confederacy at the time, on the pretext of unpaid taxes.
After the war, Lee’s family successfully challenged the seizure in court. George Washington Custis Lee then sold the property back to the government in 1883, signing it over to Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, the eldest son of the late US president Abraham Lincoln.