A novelty belt buckle designed in the style of a hand grenade prompted Spanish police to evacuate passengers from major railway stations in Barcelona and in Madrid on Wednesday after the suspicious object was detected inside a luggage item by security scanners, authorities said.
Regional police in Catalonia ordered passengers off two high-speed trains at Barcelona's Sants railway station at around 8 am and bomb disposal units were dispatched to the scene amid suspicions that a female passenger traveling to Madrid's Atocha station was carrying an explosive device in her baggage.
"This morning we received a warning telling us they had detected a suitcase with a possible explosive device at Sants station. Two AVEs (Spain's high-speed trains) have been evacuated and inspected without locating the object or carrier," the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police force, said on Twitter.
It transpired that the owner of the military-inspired accessory managed to board the train in Barcelona and was intercepted just after 10 am upon her arrival in Madrid, where National Police ordered the partial evacuation of the Atocha station – which serves long-distance and suburban railway systems – as a precaution.
"Our agents carried out relevant checks at the Atocha station in Madrid and it turns out to be a false alarm," the National Police later said in a statement on Twitter. "Everything has returned to normal."
One high-speed train destined for Madrid and another for Paris were evacuated during the security operation in Barcelona.
The Mossos published an image of the scanned luggage item in which the grenade-shaped belt buckle is clearly visible.
Spain's terror alert has been at set at the second-highest level in since 2015.
In Aug. 2017, some 16 people were killed in terror attacks in Catalonia.
On the afternoon of Aug. 17, a 22-year-old assailant plowed a van into pedestrians on the city's iconic tree-lined La Rambla mall, killing 15 and injuring over 100 more in an attack allegedly inspired by the Islamic State terror organization.
The attacker then fatally stabbed another person in order to steal their car in a bid to escape the scene.
Nine hours after the massacre, five men allegedly belonging to the same cell mowed over pedestrians in the seaside town of Cambrils, located some 110 kilometers (68 miles) to the south of Barcelona, killing a person and injuring six others before being shot down by police.
It was the bloodiest terror attack on Spanish soil since the coordinated bombing attack at the Atocha train station that on Mar. 11, 2004, killed 193 people and injured over two thousand more when a coordinated series of explosions aboard four commuter trains were detonated by an al-Qaida terror cell.