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D.C. Banks Close on Bomb Threat Linked to Dutch Teen

April 16, 2002|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — A hoax by a 13-year-old Dutch boy shut down several bank branches in the capital Monday after he phoned in a bomb threat to the local police over the weekend, authorities said.

The public prosecutor's office in the Netherlands said it had found the boy, who confessed. Prosecutors informed U.S. authorities.

"We have the idea that the boy acted on his own and that it was intended as a joke," spokesman Wim de Bruin said, adding that the public prosecutor would launch an investigation.

Branches of Bank of America and Citigroup, among others, closed after the FBI warned of an "unspecified" bomb threat.

The caller had said the bomb would go off at a national bank in the center of Washington at noon Monday, the FBI's Washington office said in a written statement.

The FBI said it did not have any reason to assign a "high degree of credibility" to the threat against financial institutions, which was telephoned Sunday from the Netherlands via a Canadian telephone operator.

But the alert was a fresh jolt to a city whose nerves have been frayed since the shock and destruction of the Sept. 11 attacks and a subsequent scare over anthrax-laced letters sent to members of Congress.

Two Washington mail carriers died of anthrax, in addition to three other people across the country.

Even as news of the hoax filtered out Monday, Washington office workers standing outside a downtown building with a Citibank branch said they had been evacuated because of a bomb threat.

Branches of SunTrust Banks Inc., Wachovia Corp.'s First Union and Riggs National Corp., among others, were closed for the rest of the day, officials with the institutions said. Citigroup and Bank of America said they were unsure when their branches would reopen.

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