A pipe-bomb attack on a police patrol in west Belfast could have caused death or serious injury, a PSNI chief has said.
The device was hurled at officers who were lured to a residential address after a hoax burglary report, but it did not explode.
The incident occurred in Culmore Gardens at 7.30pm on Monday.
PSNI district commander George Clarke said the attack could have ended in tragedy.
“We are very fortunate not to be talking about serious injuries or deaths this morning following the reckless attack on my officers and the residents of Culmore Gardens last night,” he said.
“Police officers were responding to assist in what they believed to be a genuine call for help when this viable device was thrown at their vehicle.
“The people responsible for this attack did not care that this was in a built-up residential area.
“We need to catch the people responsible for this reckless attack on our officers and on the local community.”
Around 30 homes were evacuated for several hours, with residents unable to return until 12.30am. Mr Clarke said those behind the attack were intent on causing maximum disruption.
“Once again the lives of residents have been put at risk by an element intent on causing as much loss of life and disruption as they can,” he added.
“These people are not part of the society within which the majority of people of Northern Ireland wish to live in.”
Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Ross Hussey said it was a “cowardly attack” by republican criminals.
“The vast majority of people in west Belfast, like the rest of the community in Northern Ireland, want to focus on issues such as education, jobs and the health service,” he said. “The terrorists who committed this crime offer no hope of a better future for anyone and only a one-way ticket to prison. They must be rejected and handed over to the police.” Sinn Fein councillor Emma Groves said the alert caused major disruption for people in the area.
“People don’t want this anymore, they don't want to have to lift their kids and take their kids out into a freezing cold evening,” she said.
Detectives have appealed for anyone with information to contact them on 0845 600 8000 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0845 555 111.