Grenade-shaped belt buckle halts trains in Madrid, Barcelona

Grenade-shaped belt buckle halts trains in Madrid, Barcelona
Grenade-shaped belt buckle prompts evacuation of Spanish rail stations
A security scanner image shows a suspicious object found in a suitcase of a female rail passenger in Barcelona, Spain, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Mossos dEsquadra, Via AP)

MADRID — A hand grenade-shaped belt buckle in the suitcase of a train passenger triggered major disruptions Wednesday on rail services in Spains two main cities, prompting station evacuations before police declared the incident a false alarm.

Grenade-shaped belt buckle triggers bomb alert in Spain

An official with Spains National Police said the alert was ended after agents in Madrid confirmed that the suspicious object in the suitcase of a female passenger who had travelled on a high-speed train from Barcelona didnt pose any danger.

"Everything returns to normal," said the National Police in a brief tweet explaining that disruptions in the long-distance and commuter train stations in the Spanish capital had been due to the false alarm.

The search in the capital followed police searching high-speed trains and railway tracks in the countrys second largest city, Barcelona, after the central Sants stations security scanner identified an object shaped like a possible explosive device inside a suitcase.

Police in the Catalonia region tweeted an image of the scanned suitcase, saying the object turned out to be a belt buckle.

Asked why the suspicious case was allowed on the train, the company that manages Spains railway infrastructure and oversees train station security said that it had opened an internal investigation. The company, ADIF, also said in an email statement it was revising its security protocols.

An AP reporter at the scene in Barcelona saw long queues of passengers waiting for rail traffic to resume.

A homegrown extremist cell killed 16 people in August last year in Barcelona and a nearby coastal resort in consecutive vehicle and knife attacks that were later claimed by the Islamic State group.

Mossos dEsquadra regional police in Catalonia cordon off an entrance at the citys main train station in Barcelona, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Joan Monfort / AP)

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The incident, which turned out to be a false alarm, appears to have been caused by a woman carrying the belt buckle on to a train from Barcelona to Madrid.

The Catalan regional police force, the Mossos dEsquadra, said an explosives unit was dispatched to the high-speed rail tracks at the central Sants station in Barcelona at 8am following a call from railway workers.

The alarm was triggered after security officers saw an object with the shape of a possible explosive device on their scanners.

A photograph released by the force appeared to show the outline of a hand grenade in a suitcase. A police spokesperson said the object was a grenade-shaped belt buckle.

The security alert also led to the evacuation of Madrids Atocha station, but police said this was a false alarm.

Our officers have carried out the appropriate checks at Madrids Atocha station and found it was a false alarm, Spains national police said in a tweet. The police operation is over and everything is back to normal.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Travellers wait for information at the Sants AVE high-speed train station in Barcelona after two trains had to be evacuated. Photograph: Toni Albir/EPA The Mossos later confirmed that the object and the woman carrying it had been located at Atocha station, adding that police had established that the object was not dangerous.

The rail operator Adif announced an investigation into possible security failures relating to the incident.

At about 9.20am Spains national rail company, Renfe, said that a partial high-speed service had been restored at the Barcelona station.

The Mossos also tweeted: Services are beginning to be restored at Sants station after various specialist units carried out the appropriate checks.

An Associated Press reporter at Sants station saw long queues of passengers waiting for rail services to resume.

Atocha station was the site of a bombing in March 2004 which killed 193 people and wounded about 2,000, Spains deadliest militant attack. Police say it was carried out by Islamist militants inspired by al-Qaida.

A homegrown extremist cell killed 16 people in August last year in Barcelona and a nearby coastal resort in consecutive vehicle and knife attacks that were later claimed by the Islamic State group.