The story that began early this morning at the Pentagon keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. It involves a “suspicious vehicle”, ammonium nitrate, jihad-themed materials, twenty spent 9-mm shell casings, and three cans of black spray paint.
It doesn’t add up to anything that makes sense. The suspect, Yonathan Melaku, is in the Marine Corps reserves. The ethnicity of his surname seems to be Ethiopian or Eritrean, but his first name is not generally used among Muslims — “Yonathan” is Hebrew-derived, a version of “Jonathan”.
So I’ve got no theories about the case. Readers are invited to devise their own.
Here’s the story from CBS News:
Pentagon scare suspect ID’d as Marine reservist
A source told CBS News that the man detained in the discovery of a suspicious vehicle outside the Pentagon Friday morning has been identified as a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
Lance Cpl. Yonathan Melaku told authorities during questioning Friday morning that he was carrying explosive materials, the source told CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton.
Previously, FBI Special Agent Brenda Heck, who heads the bureau’s counterterrorism division in its Washington field office, told reporters that a non-explosive material was found in a backpack the suspect was carrying at the time of his arrest.
A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity said officials found what appeared to be an unknown quantity of ammonium nitrate. The official, who was not authorized to release the information, said nothing else was found that would have enabled an explosion. The official said tests were being done to determine the substance and the exact concentration.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound that is widely used in fertilizers and can be used in explosives with the correct concentration.
A law enforcement source told Milton that the suspect now identified as Melaku was carrying a notebook that contained the phrases “al Qaeda,” “Taliban rules” and “Mujahid defeated croatian forces” when he was detained.
Despite the references to the terror organization that organized the 9/11 attacks, the group fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the Arabic word for “holy warrior,” the law enforcement source told Milton that the suspect is not thought to have been involved in a terrorist act or plot.
“It seems to be washing out at this point, but it is still being drilled down on,” the law enforcement source told Milton.
The law enforcement source said the backpack also contained 20 spent 9 mm shell casings and three cans of black spray paint.
The suspect was being held by the U.S. Park Police. No charges have been filed against him.
“This is all very unfolding and a continuing investigation,” Heck told reporters.
CBS News affiliate WUSA-TV in Washington reports that Melaku appears to have an extensive criminal record in the capital area. In Loudoun County, Va., Melaku has four pending cases for grand larceny stemming from a rash of vehicle break-ins.
Federal authorities are searching his Fairfax County, Va., home, WUSA-TV reports.
The suspect was detained after the U.S. Park Police came across him in early Friday morning in Arlington National Cemetery, when it is closed, triggering an investigation. The Park Police then launched a search for a vehicle, which was found near the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C., Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said.
Heck said no suspicious items were found in the vehicle.
Pentagon police spokesman Chris Layman said the car was in bushes near the Pentagon’s north parking lot.