White House put on lockdown and Capitol Hill evacuated as 'fighter jets scrambled to unresponsive aircraft'

Chris Riotta
AFP via Getty Images

Capitol Hill was evacuated and the White House placed on lockdown amid reports of an unresponsive aircraft flying over the DC area that was failing to communicate with federal air traffic controllers.

A correspondent for The Independent was among those reporters at the White House as teams of reporters were taken inside by the US Secret Service and told it was a shelter-in-place scenario. The correspondent reported seeing movement in what appeared to be a missile launch site. Fighter jets were also scrambled to the scene, as US Northern Command said it had tasked aircraft responding to the emergency alert.

The evacuation orders for Capitol Hill were sent out at approximately 8:30 am and the White House lockdown began nearly 15 minutes later. The orders were lifted following nearly thirty minutes of organised panic, in which federal officials appeared to be readying a response for a potentially disastrous situation.

Multiple people in the area reported seeing an evacuation helicopter hovering over Capitol Hill. The plane in question was reportedly a small aircraft found not to be hostile, though additional details were not immediately clear.

In a statement, US Northern Command said senior officials from multiple agencies were monitoring the situation.

The statement also said North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) Command aircraft were “on the scene and responding” though the plane in question was “not considered hostile”.

Officials told the Associated Press the aircraft had violated rules for airspace in a restricted area, triggering the emergency response.

Alerts of a potential threat to the area were sent out by Capitol Police, the police unit covering the Capitol Hill region, at approximately 8:30 am.

Though most of the Capitol Hill staff had already headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday, those remaining in Washington were given an “all clear” shortly after the incident occurred. White House personnel who were ordered to stay in place were also allowed to resume normal activities once the lockdown was lifted.

During the lockdown, journalists shared images of a missile battery stationed near the White House on top of a building across the street.

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