A mortar rocket discovered close to the house of an elderly and infirm woman in north Belfast could have targeted a vehicle, police have said.
More than 30 houses were evacuated after the Police Service of Northern Ireland found the missile during a search at the back of the property in Jamaica Street, Ardoyne. Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process are suspected of being responsible.
A PSNI spokesman said: "This is not the first time such a device has been recovered by police in Northern Ireland but it is a worrying indication of the capability and intent of those individuals or groups who seek to bring death and injury back to our streets, our homes and our communities."
Following a detailed examination of the device, detectives said it was a horizontal-style mortar which would have been directed at a specific target, probably a vehicle. Ardoyne is a largely republican area with a known dissident republican presence. The threat from groups pledged to kill police officers has grown in recent years and members of the security forces are on high alert.
PSNI Chief Inspector Andrew Freeburn said the mortar, an explosive projectile, was intended to kill and the target may have been police officers. He added: "People have perhaps used the infirmity of this woman to actually store this murderous device in the rear of the property."
It is not clear whether the device had been left to target officers at the location or was being prepared for use elsewhere. North Belfast has been subjected to this type of attack in previous years.
Police were carrying out searches at Jamaica Street under warrant when they discovered the bomb. Mr Freeburn pointed out that it was a very built-up area.
"The community in north Belfast is extremely angry this morning. I am very angry that someone would put the lives of their community at risk in this way and I would ask people to transfer their anger into action," he said.
He appealed for anybody with information to come forward. "This device, if it had detonated, had the ability to murder not only its target but those in the immediate vicinity so it is a very worrying development," he said.
Detectives performed two house searches in Ardoyne afterwards. "There is nothing to suggest that this was anything other than dissidents," Mr Freeburn said.