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US Capitol shut down briefly out of caution over nearby fire

The Capitol complex in Washington DC was briefly locked down after a security alert, two days before Joe Biden is inaugurated as US president.

A Capitol Police officer stands with members of the National Guard behind a crowd control fence surrounding Capitol Hill a day after a pro-Trump mob broke into the US Capitol on January 7, 2021, in Washington, DC.

A Capitol Police officer stands with members of the National Guard behind a crowd control fence surrounding Capitol Hill on 7 January. Photo: AFP

Police say they acted out of an abundance of caution after witnesses reported smoke rising nearby. The fire was several blocks away.

A rehearsal for Mr Biden’s inauguration was suspended.

Security is tight, with thousands of National Guard members deployed at the Capitol and around central Washington DC, after five people died on 6 January when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, home to the US Congress.

An alert circulated earlier to Capitol staff said the complex was on lockdown, with no-one being allowed in or out.

But the Washington DC fire service later said it had responded to a fire nearby, which was now extinguished. “There were no injuries,” the department said. “This accounts for smoke that many have seen.”

“There is no threat to the public,” the US Secret Service said in a tweet.

All 50 US states and the District of Columbia (DC) are on alert for possible violent protests, ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

The FBI has warned of possible armed marches by pro-Trump supporters across state capitols.

Congress is in recess and will not reconvene until after the inauguration.

– BBC / Reuters

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