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Suspicious packages keep Miami bomb squads busy

Days after the Boston Marathon attacks, police in the Miami area spent a busy day responding to suspected bombs that turned out to be harmless.

The string of scares came roughly 48 hours after homemade explosives killed at least three people along the iconic race route. With terrorism anxieties renewed and authorities urging more vigilance, local officials say they’re not surprised by the increase in reports of menacing objects and potential hidden bombs.

Among the Thursday’s alerts:

•  Shortly after 5 a.m., authorities at Miami International Airport spotted what looked like a grenade at a luggage screening station. Police evacuated part of Terminal D and clogged the flow of travelers to their flights as they investigated the device. It turned out to be a novelty cigarette lighter designed to look like a grenade.

• Later that morning, a concerned citizen in the Little Havana area called 911 to report a pressure cooker placed on the sidewalk — an echo of the pressure cookers that authorities said were turned into explosive devices in Boston. In Miami, the pressure cooker turned out to be a cooking device only, said Miami police spokesman Napier Velazquez.

Miami police sent a bomb squad to the location at Southwest 29th Avenue and 25th Terrace, but the owner of the discarded pot came out to claim it.

•  Meanwhile, another bomb squad went to the downtown area after a report of another suspicious package on Flagler Street and Southwest Ninth Avenue. A briefcase had been abandoned, and someone thought it looked menacing, Velazquez said.

The bomb squad did detonate that object in a secure device, as is the procedure for a suspicious looking object. There was no bomb.

• Shortly after 5 p.m., the city of Sweetwater issues a news release announcing that a “suspected bomb” addressed to President Barack Obama had been found at a foreign-mail facility on the 116th block of Northwest 21st Street. The facility was evacuated and Miami-Dade’s bomb squad was called in, and the suspicious object was again detonated.

Hours later, a second Sweetwater release said the object that caused the alarm was an envelope that had the president’s name written on it, as well as the name “Clinton.” The brief release had no mention of bomb technicians finding anything menacing in the envelope, but said an investigation remains “open.”