A viable pipe bomb device was thrown at police after they were lured into the area by a hoax emergency call, it has been disclosed.
It failed to explode but could have caused serious injury or death, a senior officer said. Police were attending a report of a violent domestic assault in Poleglass near Belfast on Thursday night.
Superintendent Philip Knox said: "One of the officers involved tells me that the device passed inches from his face before landing close to the police vehicle. Luckily the fuse burnt itself out on the ground."
Officers were attending a report of a violent domestic incident in the Glenwood View area of Poleglass, an estate to the west of Belfast, when they were targeted with the device shortly before 8.40pm on Thursday but it failed to explode.
Police enquiries have established that the original emergency call was a hoax. Two crews of three officers responded to the reported domestic incident in two vehicles. The officers at whom the explosive was hurled were Lisburn-based response constables, a man and a woman. All six officers were unharmed but shaken.
Mr Knox said a detailed examination of the device concluded that it was viable and capable of causing serious injury or death.
"The officers targeted were responding to what they believed was a genuine call for help. It now transpires that they were lured to the area with a hoax call so some cowardly individual could attack and try to kill them with a pipe bomb," he added.
"We consider ourselves extremely fortunate that we are not dealing with a much more serious incident and that all of the responding officers were able to walk away from that situation unharmed. "
This is the second time in just over four months officers have been targeted in this way and police appealed for help to identify the perpetrators. They issued a description of a man around 5ft 10ins tall, wearing a dark hoody and dark baggy tracksuit bottoms.
The previous incident happened in the Whin Park area of nearby Twinbrook during the early hours of June 6. On that occasion officers attended following a report that a window had been smashed in the area. They were leaving the house when a blast bomb was thrown at them.