A dissident republican-style rocket launcher has been discovered in south Armagh, police said.
Troops were involved in a massive security operation close to the border with the Irish Republic. The alert, near the village of Cullyhanna, has been continuing for several days.
Soldiers have been using sniffer dogs and metal detectors to scour hedgerows and culverts.
A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said: “Police can confirm that the suspicious object found in the Bog Road/Lisleitrim Road area of Cullyhanna is a mortar type device. Army Technical Officers are continuing to examine and make safe the device.”
The finger of suspicion has been pointed at republican dissidents opposed to the peace process, who have been responsible for the murders of two soldiers, a police officer and a prison guard in recent years.
Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy described the discovery as distressing.
He said: “I am concerned at both the capability and the intent of those sinister elements behind this attack and it simply reinforces how important it is that local people give total support to the police and provide them with every assistance possible as they attempt to protect and serve the entire community.
“I would appeal for anyone with any information to come forward immediately and help the police to catch whoever was responsible for this incident.”
Nationalist SDLP Stormont assembly member Dominic Bradley said those responsible for the mortar were reckless and irresponsible.
“The people of Cullyhanna, South Armagh, and indeed the people of this island, want to be left in peace. Instead, those responsible still live in some warped existence of the past,” he said.
“There is palpable anger in the local community. This community don’t want this level of disruption as they go about their everyday lives.
“The community are relieved there have been no deaths or serious injury and they want those responsible to stop immediately.”
In March, a mortar attack on a police station in Londonderry was foiled after the security services stopped a van with four viable devices primed and ready to launch.
Two men were arrested and were remanded in custody after appearing before a judge in the city.
Mortars have also been found during security alerts in Belfast.