MADRID -- A Spanish railroad inspector found a 26-pound bomb hidden in a bag on a busy high-speed line yesterday, and police said the device may contain the same kind of dynamite used in last month's Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people.
Authorities immediately stopped six bullet trains using the Madrid-Seville line after the bomb was discovered before noon under a track about 40 miles south of Madrid. About 1,600 passengers left their trains, and charter buses took them to their destinations.
No train was near the site when the bomb was discovered, said officials with the state rail company RENFE. The bomb failed to detonate, because it wasn't properly connected, officials said.
The discovery rattled a country still traumatized by the March 11 attacks in Madrid, which officials have blamed on an Islamic extremist group from Morocco. Authorities stepped up security Friday on Spain's entire rail network, and used soldiers to provide surveillance.
"A handful of madmen are behind this, but the rule of law will prevail," said Juan Jose Imbroda, president of the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the Moroccan coast.
Imbroda was among travelers stranded at Madrid's Atocha station, where trains were bombed last month, after his southbound train was canceled.
Judge Teresa Palacio, the magistrate on duty yesterday at the National Court, said there was no evidence pointing to either the armed Basque separatist group ETA or the Al Qaeda terror network in the failed attack, a court official said. ETA has targeted Spanish rail lines in the past.
Interior Minister Angel Acebes said it was too early to say who planted the bomb. Authorities believe it was placed at the scene yesterday because the bag was dry, the ground was wet, and a 450-foot cable attached to a detonator looked new.
Initial analysis of the bomb suggested it used the same brand of Spanish dynamite, Goma 2 Eco, used in the March 11 backpack bombs. Those bombs were detonated by cellphones.
He said security guards may have scared away the bomber or bombers as they planted the device.
Yesterday was a busy travel day in Spain, as trains and highways were full of people leaving home for Easter vacation. There was no warning about the bomb, Acebes said.
The line where the bomb was found mainly serves Spain's AVE bullet trains, which have a maximum speed of 190 miles per hour. Authorities will inspect the entire Madrid-Seville line, Acebes said. Service on the line was suspended until at least today.
Spain's entire rail system will get a new security system employing helicopters, four-wheel-drive cars, and armored vehicles from the Spanish army, Acebes said.
The find came as a Spanish judge charged a 15th suspect in the March 11 bombings on four commuter trains, Spain's worst terror attack, which also wounded more than 1,800 people. The government has said its investigation is focused on the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, which has links to Al Qaeda. Otman El Gnaout, a Moroccan, was jailed yesterday on terrorism charges.
Six of the 15 suspects are charged with mass murder, while the remaining nine are accused of collaborating with or belonging to a terrorist organization.