Main stations in Barcelona and Madrid emptied after suspicious object seen on scanners
Police evacuated the main railway stations in Barcelona and Madrid during Wednesday morning’s rush hour after a belt buckle in the shape of a hand grenade triggered a security alert.
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 d’Esquadra, 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.
Two trains were searched before the Mossos declared that the object “posed no threat”.
The security alert also led to the evacuation of Madrid’s Atocha station, but police said this was a false alarm.
“Our officers have carried out the appropriate checks at Madrid’s Atocha station and found it was a false alarm,” Spain’s national police said in a tweet. “The police operation is over and everything is back to normal.”
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.
It was unclear why the suspicious case was allowed on to the train.
The rail operator Adif announced an investigation into possible security failures relating to the incident.
At about 9.20am Spain’s 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, Spain’s 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.