A bomb left in Belfast city centre last night partially exploded, city police have confirmed.
The viable device, inside a car abandoned near Musgrave police station and the city’s courts, detonated just after midnight.
Army bomb disposal experts were at the scene and were working on the vehicle when the blast happened.
There were no reports of any injuries.
It is understood the car’s rear windscreen and a door were blown out but the vehicle was not destroyed. No buildings were damaged by the explosion.
Hundreds of people were caught up in the security alert, which was the third to hit Belfast yesterday.
The vehicle was believed to have been abandoned at about 9.30pm at the street level entrance to an underground car park.
People in the nearby Victoria Square shopping centre, cinema and apartment block were told to leave the area and were offered shelter in the Ulster Hall. Some shoppers, who could not access their cars, also had to spend the night at the hall.
Residents were allowed to return home just after 6am but six streets in the city centre remained sealed off.
A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said the security closures were expected to remain in place throughout the morning and would impact on morning rush-hour traffic.
Police said the security alert, which caused huge traffic disruption in Belfast, has ended.
A spokesman said all roads had re-opened and everyone was allowed back into their homes, shops and offices.
Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has condemned the attack.
She said: “It is not on the scale of the bad old days but it is a worrying trend – the hijacking of cars and buses, which seems to be the modus operandi for these people.
“I would urge people to be vigilant and to keep their doors locked.”
Ms Foster said such attacks did nothing to help the economy and appealed for the community to reject those responsible.
She added: “This is not the sort of thing we want from our capital city, which had a difficult time last Christmas.”