World Bank Offices Close to Investigate Bomb Threats

Foot traffic was sparse yesterday outside the World Bank as its doors remained closed because of bomb threats received during the week.
Foot traffic was sparse yesterday outside the World Bank as its doors remained closed because of bomb threats received during the week. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
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By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 19, 2008

Officials shut down offices of the World Bank in five buildings in the District yesterday and told thousands of employees not to come to work after the bank received threats that a bomb would go off in one of the locations "at a specified time," the FBI said.

An extensive search of the bank properties by bomb-detecting dogs and scores of law enforcement officers turned up no sign of explosives, authorities said.

FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman said three threatening phone calls were received at different times in the middle of the week. Although Weierman would not disclose the specified time of the threatened explosion, bank officials notified employees late Thursday that they should not go to work the next day.

A bank spokeswoman said about 8,000 people are employed at the bank's headquarters, in the 1800 block of H Street NW, between the White House and Foggy Bottom, and in nearby buildings on H, I and G streets and Pennsylvania Avenue. The bank, which provides financial and technical help to developing countries, will reopen Tuesday, after the holiday Monday, the spokeswoman said.

Weierman said the offices were declared safe for occupancy yesterday afternoon after searches that began about 11 p.m. Thursday. She said the investigation into the origin of the threats is continuing.

The bank has been the target of previous threats. In July 2006, two Georgia men, who previously had been accused of having contact with Islamic militants, were indicted on terror-related charges. They allegedly cased the U.S. Capitol and World Bank headquarters, and other locations.

Chris Geldart, the representative for the D.C. area at the Department of Homeland Security, said the threatening calls this week "prompted folks to take action out of an abundance of caution, and do the right thing and make sure we swept the buildings."

D.C. Assistant Police Chief Patrick Burke, head of the homeland security bureau, said D.C. police worked with the FBI and World Bank security officials to investigate the threats. Weierman said other police agencies in the area also assisted.

Burke said D.C. police also have stepped up patrols near the World Bank offices.

"There's no indication there's an immediate threat at this point," he said.

Staff writer Mary Beth Sheridan contributed to this report.

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