A large bomb left in north Belfast could have inflicted carnage, police commanders have said.
The significant explosive device was placed in the busy Ardoyne area, prompting a day long security alert with many homes and businesses evacuated.
The finger of suspicion is again pointed at dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.
The alarm was raised when a bomb threat was phoned in to a local priest. The bomb was left close to the junction of the Crumlin Road and Brompton Park near Holy Cross Church.
Army technical officers have carried out a controlled explosion on the cylindrical device.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw said the bomb was designed to kill officers but could have murdered anyone in the vicinity.
“It was clearly placed in a position that was designed to attack police who may have been in the vicinity,” he said.
“Without question, even at this stage, I am absolutely convinced it would have killed or seriously injured police had it detonated.”
PSNI chief constable George Hamilton condemned those responsible.
In a tweet, he described them as “small minded people creating risk for communities as they attempt to kill police officers”.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly branded the act as “futile”.
“Thankfully no one has been injured as a result of this reckless action of placing a bomb in a busy built-up area much used by local people for shopping,” he said.
“This incident caused serious disruption all day to the lives of local people and closed off local roads. However, it could have been much worse.
“Those behind this incident have nothing to offer the people of this community other than trying to plunge us back to the past.
“The community is not prepared to let them do that.
“They need to stop these futile actions immediately and let people in the area get on with their lives in peace.”
SDLP Assembly member for the area Alban Maginness MLA praised residents for their fortitude.
“Once again those intent on mayhem and destruction have tried to hold the people of Ardoyne to ransom,” he said.
“And once again the people of this community have stood strong and continue to stand resolutely against the type of violence that caused so much pain here.
“Planting a viable explosive device in such a densely populated and residential area can only achieve one result – the murder of innocents. There is nothing patriotic about putting your neighbours or the police in harm’s way. ”
Ulster Unionist representative Andy Allen said: “The PSNI have confirmed that they found a ’substantial bomb’ in the Brompton Park area following a search operation which lasted most of the day, causing major disruption in the surrounding area.
“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for this incident. Once again innocent people have had their daily routine affected and their lives put in danger by criminals who must be caught.
“The police have described this as an attempt to kill their officers but the inherent instability of such devices meant that the lives of any passers-by were put at risk. The people of North Belfast want a future in which they can live peacefully with their neighbours and bring up their families. They certainly do not want bomb attacks or disruption to their daily lives.”