A viable pipe bomb capable of causing death or serious injury was found and handled by a child in north Belfast, police have revealed.
The device was discovered in Hartwell Place, off the Antrim Road, at around 9.30pm on Saturday. The bomb was picked up by a child, but then moved by a member of the public.
A senior PSNI officer said it was “pure good fortune” young people who were in the area at the time were not killed.
Police were called to the scene and residents in the New Lodge area were evacuated from their homes for around three hours as Army bomb experts examined the device. The security alert ended at around 12.30am yesterday.
The man who removed the pipe bomb from the child told how he had to take it away twice.
The anonymous man told Radio Ulster he first removed the device and placed it in an alleyway. When he went to telephone the police the youngster moved it again: “I went around and got it and put it in the entry again. When the police came, a policeman said: ‘It is a pipe bomb, we'll have to get everyone out of their houses’.”
Area Commander, Chief Inspector Ian Campbell, condemned those responsible for planting the bomb.
“Those responsible have no qualms about putting local people's lives at risk and causing chaos and disruption to the community,” he said. “There is no doubt that this device had the potential to cause serious injury or death.
“Young people were in the area at the time and actually handled the device. It was by pure good fortune that they were not killed.”
Alliance councillor for the area Billy Webb described those behind the incident as “callous”.
“This is the act of callous individuals who have no thoughts for the consequences of their actions,” he said.
The alert comes after police revealed a booby-trap bomb was attached to a child’s bicycle on the Antrim Road earlier this year.
Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said the discovery could have had serious consequences: “This device was found and actually handled by a child. Only for the swift actions of a resident we could have been dealing with a tragedy.”
Last week, two eight-year-old boys escaped injury after a military grenade thrown at police in the Creggan area of Londonderry landed at their feet but did not explode.