PARIS -- A French railroad worker found an explosive device buried in the bed of a passenger line between France and Switzerland yesterday, the Interior Ministry said.
Bomb disposal specialists neutralized the device, which was half-buried under a track in the village of Montieramey, on a train line heading from Paris to Basel, Switzerland, about 105 miles southeast of Paris, the ministry said in a statement. It was discovered shortly after noon.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
France has been on a higher terror alert since the March 11 train bombings in neighboring Spain that killed more than 200 people.
The Interior Ministry said the device found yesterday did not resemble bombs described in threats by a previously unknown group calling itself AZF. An Interior Ministry official said later it was not immediately clear whether the device was capable of exploding. The group claimed to have planted nine bombs along the country's rail network and has threatened to explode them unless it is paid millions of dollars.
Police, terrorism specialists, and intelligence officials held a crisis meeting at the Interior Ministry.
About 10,000 maintenance workers inspected thousands of miles of track after the government publicized the first set of threats early this month.
The state-run train authority said yesterday it was undertaking a massive new inspection, starting with tracks carrying passengers and hazardous freight.
AZF's threats, first disclosed earlier this month, appeared in at least three letters sent to the offices of Sarkozy and President Jacques Chirac on Dec. 10, Feb. 13, and Feb. 17. The letters, demanding $5.2 million, threatened railway targets.
Information from the group led to the Feb. 21 recovery of a sophisticated explosive device buried in tracks near Limoges in central France
tests showed it was powerful enough to rupture the track.