A booby-trap bomb planted in south Belfast was potentially intended to kill police officers, the PSNI has said.
On Tuesday a hoax 999 call was made to the emergency services stating a woman was in distress in a wood near Laganside.
Police and Army technical officers were called to the Annadale Embankment at about 1.30pm and a police helicopter was launched.
Residents were shocked that the device was placed in such an open location.
Ciaran McCarney, who lives in the area, said: “At this time of year everybody’s out running and jogging and getting ready for the marathon and that’s one of the places where they go running. They could have killed anybody just minding their own business.
“I know a few people who live just 20 yards away — it is crazy that anyone would put a bomb in a place like that.”
Acting chairman of the Policing Board Brian Rea has urged community vigilance after the discovery.
He said: “These police officers were responding to a call for assistance and it is simply fortuitous that this device did not detonate.
“While it is believed the target was police, given the location, this could easily have been detonated by a member of the public passing through.
“With the people responsible for leaving this and other devices showing complete recklessness, there is a need for community vigilance and support for police at this time.
“The device was placed in a busy area so if anyone noticed anything suspicious then that information should be brought to the police.”
SDLP South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell said: “This was an act of pure evil against the good people of south Belfast and the police.
“This has incited fear within our community and has disrupted the lives of hundreds of innocent people.
“Whatever the motivations of the perpetrators are, there is absolutely no justification for this attack.”
South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly candidate Alex Maskey has hit out at those responsible for placing the bomb and has called upon those responsible to stop. “The planting of this device is an attack on both the community and the peace process. It was placed in an area that is frequented by the public and could easily have led to the loss of life,” he said.
“Those involved in planting this device are engaged in a futile attempt to destroy the progress that has been made and which has the overwhelming support of the people of this island.
“This action and those responsible for it must be totally rejected. I am calling upon those involved to stop and to stop now.”
UUP Assembly candidate for south Belfast Michael McGimpsey added his condemnation of those who “recklessly left this device in a deliberate attempt to harm and potentially kill”.
He said: “We are very lucky today that the speedy actions of the PSNI who discovered the device prevented injuries or fatalities.
“Without such action we could have been looking at a very different situation.
“The people of south Belfast and Northern Ireland want to live in peace as demonstrated by the public outcry after the tragic murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr only two weeks ago.”