Detectives are investigating whether a bomb found on a Belfast street, and then apparently kicked by a child, fell off a car belonging to a member of the military.
Police believe the viable explosive device discovered in Linden Gardens, off the nationalist Cliftonville Road, became detached from the underside of a car.
It is understood one line of enquiry is whether it was placed under the vehicle of a member of the armed forces who was visiting the area.
Sinn Fein Assembly member for north Belfast Gerry Kelly said a young boy kicked the object without knowing what it was.
The finger of suspicion for the failed bomb bid will again point toward dissidents republicans.
Officers remained at the scene of a security alert on Friday morning.
A number of homes in the area were evacuated overnight.
Police Service of Northern
Ireland (PSNI) Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said: "Detectives from PSNI's Serious Crime Branch are investigating the circumstances surrounding the discovery of a viable explosive type device.
“At this stage Police believe that this could have been an under car booby trap which was designed to kill or maim.”
Army Technical Officers (ATO) carried out a controlled explosion on the device and it has been taken away for further forensic examination.
“I utterly condemn this incident. Those responsible have no qualms about putting people’s lives at risk and causing disruption to the community. There is no doubt that this device had the potential to cause serious injury or death,” Mr Campbell said.
Mr Kelly told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show the child could have been killed. “I understand a young boy kicked it on the way up the street,” he said. “So we could be dealing with a child being killed here.”
Officers have appealed for anyone with information about the incident to come forward.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers described those behind the bomb bid as “reckless”.
She said: “To place explosives on a residential street with the intention to kill and maim is a sickening act.
“There is no possible justification to imperil life in this way.”
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds described the bomb attempt as “outrageous”.
“Those responsible have shown their total disregard for the consequences of their evil actions, not just for their intended victim but for any passing member of the public who could have been maimed or killed had this device exploded,” said the Democratic Unionist deputy leader.
“There could have been multiple casualties. Not only were local residents placed in the line of harm but so were those passing through the area and those making their way to nearby primary schools, shops and a playgroup.
“Those responsible have demonstrated their utter contempt for the lives and well-being of local people. Suspicion will fall on the dissident republicans who have been responsible for previous terrorist attacks in this area. They will be condemned by all right-thinking people. They seek to perpetuate the failed tactics and misery of past terrorism. Such attacks are as wrong today as they were wrong in the past.”
SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon also condemned the incident.
“Once again north Belfast residents have been forced from their homes by those with no regard for life; be it the families who live locally or the many children attending Naíscoil Bheann Mhadagáin and Cliftonville Integrated Primary School nearby.
“There is no justification for this callous attempt to kill. I would appeal for anyone with information to bring it forward and help bring those responsible to justice.”
Meanwhile, t wo men have been arrested by detectives investigating dissident republican activity. The suspects aged 39 and 40 were detained in west Belfast and south Down this morning. Two properties were also searched as part of the ongoing operation by officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s serious crime branch.
The arrests are not believed to be linked to the bomb incident in north Belfast.