A van abandoned outside a police station in a border town in Northern Ireland contained a 300lb (136kg) bomb, police have said.

The viable device left in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, last night failed to detonate and has been made safe by British army bomb disposal officers.

Some 350 residents of Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, spent last night in a church hall because of the incident.

Dozens of homes were evacuated after the white van was discovered by police in the village.

The van was left at the police station at around 10.10pm and a coded telephone warning to a Belfast newspaper claimed it would explode in an hour.

PSNI Superintendent Brian Kee said his officers were still carrying out the evacuation when the 60-minute deadline elapsed but fortunately the bomb failed to go off.

‘If it had detonated it would have caused widespread devastation in the village and it's very likely that lives would have been lost,’ he said.

A suspected getaway car, a blue Toyota Avensis, was found burned out across the border in Co Monaghan.

Mr Kee condemned those responsible as ‘terrorist criminals’.

‘They had no consideration at all on the impact of the village,’ he said.

He appealed for anyone with information about the incident to come forward.