A loud explosion apparently caused by a bomb damaged a building housing an abortion clinic in far Southeast Washington early today, a D.C. police official reported.
The blast at the Hillcrest Women's Surgi-Center, at 3233 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, shook the surrounding neighborhood a few minutes after midnight, but there was no indication of any injury in the incident.
During 1984 there were at least 24 attacks on abortion facilities around the nation.
Police Lt. Maralyn Hershey, who said the blast seemingly resulted from the detonation of a bomb, said it appeared to be timed to coincide with the start of the New Year.
Fire officials said the explosion was reported to them just 13 minutes after midnight.
Hershey said the explosion blew out a window on the side of the one-story brick building, which houses the clinic that is operated by two physicians. Neither physician could be reached early today.
No other damage to the structure was immediately visible from the outside, but investigators were checking the interior early this morning. Dogs trained to sniff out explosives were being used by authorities.
Assistant D.C. Fire Chief Maurice Kilby, who lives nearby, said the blast shook his house.
"I knew it was an explosion," he said. " . . . I saw the smoke coming from the roof.
"It shook the whole neighborhood," another area resident said, likening the sound to that of "a cannon going off."
Today's apparent bombing is the fourth in the area in the past two months at a building that houses an abortion facility or family-planning clinic.
After predawn blasts occurred in November at two medical clinics in Montgomery County, authorities found evidence that two bombs had been placed on the outside wall of one of them, a Planned Parenthood family planning center in Rockville.
On the day before Christmas, an explosive device went off in an office building in Suitland. A Planned Parenthood office was located on the fifth floor of the building.
Sunday, the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms charged a 21-year-old Florida man with four abortion-clinic bombings in Pensacola, Fla., three on Christmas Day.
The past year, with at least two dozen recorded incidents, has seen an upsurge in the number of attacks on abortion facilities. In 1983 two such incidents were recorded and the year before that there were three, according to a spokesman for the FBI.
Federal authorities have said that responsibility for investigating the increasing number of attacks against the facilities rests with the Treasury Department bureau.
A $7,000 reward has been posted for information identifying suspects in the explosions at the two Montgomery County facilities. The reward was posted by the county Crime Solvers, a police-affiliated group that offers cash in return for police information.
Total damage in those blasts was estimated at $500,000.
Authorities said the attacks have occurred at both facilities that provide counseling and those that perform abortions.
An abortion facility has been in operation at or near the site of this morning's blast since the 1970s.