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WASHINGTON, May 25 ― The US Capitol stood unprotected by National Guard troops for the first time in nearly five months yesterday as concerns about right-wing extremist threats have diminished since the January 6 attacks.
The last 2,149 of what had been nearly 26,000 troops in an extraordinary deployment in Washington departed over the weekend as their mission to protect Congress formally ended.
The troops were mobilised after hundreds of supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, halting the joint session of Congress to confirm Trump's rival Joe Biden as winner of the presidential election.
Some broke into lawmakers' offices, and called for the killing of members of Congress and vice president Mike Pence, who was presiding over the session.
Amid fears of more threats around and following the January 20 inauguration of Biden, thousands of Guard troops were mobilized, patrolling the Capitol area day and night while a large fence encircled the grounds, making it appear a building under siege.
The troops remained in Washington for months after the inauguration as what many dubbed an insurrection was investigated.
“These airmen and soldiers protected not only the grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people's business could continue unabated,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
Trump, who was impeached for encouraging the assault, later claimed the attackers were “zero threat” to lawmakers and downplayed the episode.
Since January 6 the FBI has arrested and charged some 440 people involved in attacking the legislature, dozens of them associated with armed militia groups.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, thanked the National Guard, calling them “American heroes and defenders of democracy.”
“Their presence in our temple of Democracy following January 6th, one of the most harrowing and horrific days in our history, has brought security, safety and healing to the Congress and indeed the Country,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“It is imperative that Congress continues to take action to honour the sacrifice of law enforcement and to protect the Capitol and ensure that an attack can never again be perpetrated against it,” she added. ― AFP
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