An off-duty soldier's vigilance saved his life when he spotted a bomb underneath the driver's seat inside his car in Belfast.
Chief Inspector Andy Freeburn said: "He was very, very, lucky."
The soldier from Britain had been visiting a girlfriend when dissident republicans opposed to the peace process opened the door of his UK-registered Vauxhall Astra and slipped the device beneath the seat.
The car had been parked in a housing estate off the Ligoneil Road in a nationalist area of the city, but police said they did not know when or where the bomb was planted.
The soldier had driven around the district on a number of occasions - alerting terrorists belonging to the republican faction Oglaigh na hEireann as to his whereabouts and movements.
He is likely to be interviewed by senior officers about his personal security arrangements once he returns to his regiment.
It is understood the soldier noticed a wire connected to the driver's seatbelt and then discovered the device below the seat. Around 30 families had to be evacuated from their homes as an army explosives expert dealt with the device.
Police said many children were in the area of Blackdam Court at the time of the discovery and there could have been massive bloodshed if the bomb had exploded. Politicians on all sides condemned the terrorists.
There had been a lull in activity by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland, but Mr Freeburn said the north Belfast attack confirmed the threat they pose is still a severe one.
He added: "A small but very determined and capable group of people was involved in this, and we could have been dealing with a serious tragedy. There is no doubt his (the soldier's) vigilance saved his life."