Suspect ID'd in Pentagon-suspicious items probe

Jun 20 2011 - 2:00pm

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Law enforcement authorities collect evidence from the residence of Yonathan Melaku in Alexandria, Va., Friday, June 17, 2011. Melaku a Marine Corps reservist was taken into custody overnight in Arlington National Cemetery, less than a mile from the Pentagon -- while in the possession of suspicious materials and notes making reference to al Qaeda, law enforcement sources said, sparking a bomb scare near the heart of the American military. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
This undated image released by the Leesburg, (Va.) Police Department shows Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, Va., after his May 2011 arrest in Loudoun County, Va., charged with four counts of grand larceny. Melaku, a Marine Corps reservist is in custody after authorities detained him in Arlington National Cemetery after closing in the early morning of Friday, June 17, 2011, with a backpack containing suspicious items. The FBI says Welaku joined the Marine Corps Reserves in September 2007 and is currently listed as a lance corporal. (AP Photo/Leesburg Police Department)
Roads in proximity of the Pentagon are closed to thru traffic during morning rush hour Friday, June 17, 2011, as law enforcement personnel work near the Pentagon. A man was taken into custody early Friday morning with suspicious materials in his backpack, authorities said, and his car found parked near the Pentagon grounds. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Law enforcement authorities collect evidence from the residence of Yonathan Melaku in Alexandria, Va., Friday, June 17, 2011. Melaku a Marine Corps reservist was taken into custody overnight in Arlington National Cemetery -- less than a mile from the Pentagon -- while in the possession of suspicious materials and notes making reference to al Qaeda, law enforcement sources said, sparking a bomb scare near the heart of the American military. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Brenda Heck, Special Agent in Charge of the Counter Terrorism division of the FBI's Washington Field Office, center, speaks at a news conference with U.S. Park Police spokesperson, Sgt. David Schlosser, left, and Arlington Police spokesperson, Cpl. Crystal Nosal, right, after a man was taken into custody and his car, found near the Pentagon, forced multiple road closures Friday, June 17, 2011, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Law enforcement authorities collect evidence from the residence of Yonathan Melaku in Alexandria, Va., Friday, June 17, 2011. Melaku a Marine Corps reservist was taken into custody overnight in Arlington National Cemetery, less than a mile from the Pentagon -- while in the possession of suspicious materials and notes making reference to al Qaeda, law enforcement sources said, sparking a bomb scare near the heart of the American military. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
This undated image released by the Leesburg, (Va.) Police Department shows Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, Va., after his May 2011 arrest in Loudoun County, Va., charged with four counts of grand larceny. Melaku, a Marine Corps reservist is in custody after authorities detained him in Arlington National Cemetery after closing in the early morning of Friday, June 17, 2011, with a backpack containing suspicious items. The FBI says Welaku joined the Marine Corps Reserves in September 2007 and is currently listed as a lance corporal. (AP Photo/Leesburg Police Department)
Roads in proximity of the Pentagon are closed to thru traffic during morning rush hour Friday, June 17, 2011, as law enforcement personnel work near the Pentagon. A man was taken into custody early Friday morning with suspicious materials in his backpack, authorities said, and his car found parked near the Pentagon grounds. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Law enforcement authorities collect evidence from the residence of Yonathan Melaku in Alexandria, Va., Friday, June 17, 2011. Melaku a Marine Corps reservist was taken into custody overnight in Arlington National Cemetery -- less than a mile from the Pentagon -- while in the possession of suspicious materials and notes making reference to al Qaeda, law enforcement sources said, sparking a bomb scare near the heart of the American military. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Brenda Heck, Special Agent in Charge of the Counter Terrorism division of the FBI's Washington Field Office, center, speaks at a news conference with U.S. Park Police spokesperson, Sgt. David Schlosser, left, and Arlington Police spokesperson, Cpl. Crystal Nosal, right, after a man was taken into custody and his car, found near the Pentagon, forced multiple road closures Friday, June 17, 2011, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A man carrying a backpack containing what authorities said were suspicious materials briefly fled police Friday before he was detained in the middle of the night near the Pentagon.

The man was discovered inside Arlington National Cemetery after 1 a.m., several hours after the cemetery had closed, and was taken into custody after being uncooperative. He was in custody but has not been charged with anything. Authorities believe he acted alone and no one else was with him.

The man was identified as Yonathan Melaku, 22, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Ethiopia, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Investigators and bomb-sniffing dogs were sifting through his family's home in Fairfax County, Va.

The man had an unknown quantity of a substance that appeared to be ammonium nitrate in a bag, according to another law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound that is widely used in fertilizers and can be used in explosives with the correct concentration.

Nothing else was found on the man that could have triggered an explosion, the official said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Tests were being done to determine the substance and the exact concentration, the second official said.

During the course of the investigation, officers searched the man's nearby car, a red 2011 Nissan that was parked in the bushes near a Pentagon parking lot, but found nothing suspicious inside, said Brenda Heck, special agent in charge of the counterterrorism unit of the FBI's Washington field office.

She would not disclose the materials inside the backpack, but said it contained no explosives.

In another incident earlier this week, a motorist found with a gun and what appeared to be a suspicious package near the Pentagon was taken into custody.

Friday's investigation snarled rush hour traffic as police closed off roads around the Pentagon.

 

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