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Security scare as 'gyro copter' lands on US Capitol Hill grounds

Police in the United States have arrested a man who landed a small one-person helicopter on Capitol grounds. Surrounding streets, as well as the Capitol Visitor Center, were locked down.

Emergency vehicles were dispatched to the US Capitol on Wednesday after the mini open-air helicopter flew over a row of trees and landed on the Capitol building's west lawn.

The pilot was detained on the spot, while the craft, described by police as a "gyro copter with a single occupant," was inspected by a robot bomb detector.

Capitol Police have not identified the man in custody, nor released any information about his motives.

However, a Florida-based postal worker named Doug Hughes claimed responsibility for the stunt on his website, claiming he was attempting to deliver letters to all 535 members of Congress to draw attention to campaign finance corruption.

"As I have informed the authorities, I have no violent inclinations or intent," Hughes wrote. "An ultralight aircraft poses no major physical threat - it may present a political threat to graft. I hope so. There's no need to worry - I'm just delivering the mail."

House Homeland Security panel Chairman Michael McCaul told Associated Press authorities had been prepared to shoot the pilot down.

"Had it gotten any closer to the speaker's balcony they have long guns to take it down, but it didn't. It landed right in front," McCaul said.

Aircraft without special permission are prohibited from flying over the White House, the Capitol, the national Mall and other key buildings in downtown Washington.

Security breaches

Schüsse am US-Kapitol

Capitol building in temporary lockdown

The security scare follows a number of recent high-profile incidents in the Washington D.C. district.

On Saturday, a man

fatally shot himself in front of the Capitol

, also prompting a lockdown. Police said the man had been carrying a "social justice" protest sign when he turned the gun on himself on the western side of the building.

In January, a small "quadcopter" drone crashed onto the White House lawn, although the pilot did not face criminal charges.

In 2013, police shot and killed a woman as she rammed security barricades in a car headed for the Capitol Building. In the same year, a government contractor opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 13.

A man also recently pleaded guilty to running into the White House in September armed with a knife before being tackled, a security breach that prompted changes in the US Secret Service.

nm/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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