An explosive device discovered in a busy shopping area of Belfast city centre could have caused death or serious injury, police have warned.
A controlled explosion was carried out after homes and businesses were evacuated near the scene at Bradbury Place on Friday night.
The streets are usually thronged with restaurant-goers and night clubbers at night, or businessmen during the day, but they were replaced by police cordons and officers on guard.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Inspector Eugene King said: "This was a viable device which was capable of causing death or serious injury and I would appeal to the community for information about the people who left this deadly device in the heart of our city."
Dissident republicans have been responsible for a string of bombings and shootings in the past, many aimed at members of the security services.
The device was made safe by Army technical officers and taken away for examination.
Less than a mile from the bottom of the Lisburn Road and Bradbury Place is the City Hospital. Two busy train stations and the city's main bus centre are also a short distance away.
SDLP South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell condemned those responsible.
"Businesses in Belfast, and in Bradbury Place where many bars and restaurants are located, are fighting hard against the current economic tide and do not need the added pressure of competing against viable devices," he said.
Alliance Party Stormont assembly member Anna Lo said she could not comprehend the mindset of those responsible for this bomb. "How can anyone believe that violence is ever the answer? It was never right during the Troubles and it is still not right," she said.