A bomb left on the side of a road in Northern Ireland was designed to kill police officers, it has been claimed.

The explosive was found in the Brians Well Road area in west Belfast yesterday after a tip-off that a suspicious object had been left in the area.

The PSNI cordoned off the road and called in the helicopter for overhead searches, and bomb disposal teams were deployed in the two-day operation in the Poleglass/Dunmurry area.

The bomb was made safe at the scene and taken away for further forensic examination.

Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said local PSNI officers were the target but that civilians could have been killed or maimed.

"We are relieved to have taken this explosive device out of circulation," he said.

"I believe it was designed to kill or seriously injure officers serving the local community in west Belfast, but it was also left in a position where there is every possibility that it could have killed or maimed members of the public.

"Those who left this device have shown callous disregard for the safety of the local community and the police officers serving this community.

"We are extremely fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured."

The security operation began on Saturday evening with officers on the street until this evening.

"It is important to condemn those criminals who caused this upset," said Chief Supt Noble.

"The overwhelming number of people in the community do not want this type of activity and we as a police service will continue to work to bring those responsible before the courts," he said.

"The blame for this incident lies squarely on the reckless individuals who placed this device."

The PSNI appealed for anyone with information on those who may be responsible to come forward.