A small bomb found outside a Catholic church could be linked to the ongoing Union flag protests, a priest said.
Police are appealing for information following the discovery of the crude but viable device at St Mary's on the Hill Church on Carnmoney Road in Newtownabbey on Saturday night.
Parish priest Fr John Forsythe said suspicious objects have been left outside a small number of churches and homes in recent weeks.
"It might have something to do with the flag protests," he said.
"It's most unusual because this area has seen tremendous growth and good community relations with police and people work well together."
The priest said up to 20 people, including the curate, were forced to evacuate their homes at 10pm for more than four hours until a bomb disposal team made the device safe.
"People had to leave their homes, including the curate who lives beside the church who stayed with me," he said.
"It was more of a nuisance and an inconvenience for older people as it's mostly senior citizens who live in that part of the parish."
The PSNI said the device has been taken for forensic examination and urged anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area to come forward.