A “deadly and unstable” booby-trap bomb was designed to kill police in Craigavon lured in by a false alarm, a detective has said.
The explosive was set up to look like a fired mortar but detonate if moved or touched, police said.
The PSNI issued photos of the device lying on a footpath in Craigavon, Co Armagh.
It said a call to a Belfast newspaper that a mortar had been fired at a police patrol but missed its target and a separate report of a loud bang at around midnight on Friday was meant to lure police into the area.
Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said: “Despite the initial report to the Tullygally Road our inquiries to date would lead us to believe a mortar was not fired and in fact the entire incident was staged in order to bring police into an area where another deadly and unstable device awaited.
“Although the explosive was designed and set up to look like a fired mortar, it was in fact a booby-trap device.
“In other words it was designed to explode if moved or touched.”
He said the attack was indiscriminate.
“Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that first responders were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the carnage.
“We are extremely fortunate that the swift actions of those officers who were first on scene meant that there was not serious injury or death.”
At about midnight on Friday, the loud bang was reported to police in the Tullygally Road area of the town.
Twenty people were evacuated, including a pensioner aged 80.
Chief Superintendent Peter Farrar said: “I cannot condemn strongly enough those behind this cowardly and evil attack of terrorism.
“They offer nothing but heartache to this community and their actions here do not reflect the wishes of the vast majority of the good people living in this area.
“Huge disruption has been caused to the lives of those residents who live nearby, with people being evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night.”