17/01/2012 09:13 GMT

Northern Ireland: Pipe Bomb Found Near St Teresa's Primary School, Belfast

A pipe bomb with the capacity to kill has been left close to a primary school in Northern Ireland.

Police said the device was designed to murder and its discovery before it exploded had averted a potential tragedy.

Firefighters and police officers were called to the scene near St Teresa's primary school in west Belfast early Tuesday morning after a report of a fire at a business premises.

During an examination of the scene on the nationalist Glen Road, police found the bomb.

A number of homes in the area were evacuated and St Teresa's was forced to close for the day.

Army bomb disposal experts attended the scene and the device was removed.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton condemned those responsible.

"At around 3am this morning, police and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service attended a report of a fire at business premises at the Glen Road area," he said.

"After re-examining the scene, police discovered a suspicious object in the area.

"A number of homes were evacuated whilst Army technical officers attended.

"The device has been taken away for further examination but we can confirm that it was a viable pipe bomb which had the capacity to kill or maim.

"It is perhaps particularly chilling given the fact that there is a primary school close to the scene.

"This is a residential area and we could have been looking at serious tragedy here.

"There is absolutely no doubt that this device was intended to murder and we would ask anyone with any information in relation to this incident to come forward and tell us what they know about this."

The police chief thanked people in the area for their patience during the security operation.

He said officers were making every effort to get residents back into their homes as soon as possible but advised motorists that road closures may be place for much of the day.

Hamilton added: "The blame for any disruption today lies squarely with the misguided individuals who were responsible for this device being on a busy road close to people's homes."