A number of homes were evacuated following a security alert in Newry.
Police received reports of a suspicious object found in the Ashgrove Road area of the city at around 3:30pm on Saturday.
Police and ATO attended the scene, and ATO carried out a controlled explosion.
At this time, it is believed to have been a viable device.
Newry, Mourne & Down District Commander, Superintendent Norman Haslett said: "As part of our public safety operation, a number of homes were evacuated.
"Some of the residents affected made use of the local leisure centre, as facilitated by the local Council.
"As of this time, most of the families have returned home and any roads closed have reopened. "Our enquiries are continuing and we are working to establish who is responsible for what can only be described as a reckless act. This device could easily have detonated, or have been picked up by anyone, including children. Someone could have suffered serious injury. "As we continue with our investigation, I want to thank everyone inconvenienced by the alert. In particular, I want to thank the 15 families who had to leave their homes as we worked to make the scene safe." Superintendent Haslett is appealing to anyone who has information which could help the police investigation to call 101 and quote reference number 1114 of 20/02/21. The incident has been widely condemned by local representatives.
Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins condemned those responsible: "Those responsible for this suspicious object which led to a security alert in Ashgrove Road in Newry have nothing to offer the community.
"Families had to be evacuated from their homes in what must have been a frightening and traumatic experience.
"This is an attack on the entire community at a time when we should all be working together in the face of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.
"Those responsible need to end these futile actions immediately."
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has appealed for anyone with information to contact the police: “Residents in the Ashgrove Road area, the elderly and young families have been forced from their homes this evening into the wind and the rain as police and army deal with a viable device.
“Those responsible for this device don’t care about people in our community, People living here don’t want this, they don’t want to return to the murder, mayhem and tragedy of the past. This kind of reckless activity has no place in Newry or anywhere.
“I would appeal to anyone with information to come forward to police. We cannot let mindless thugs dominate our communities. This is a time for us all to come together again and reject those intent on violence."
Ulster Unionist Councillor David Taylor said: “The criminals responsible for placing this device in the Ashgrove area of Newry have been totally reckless in their behaviour.
“Their actions have caused significant disturbance and concern to local residents and there is no doubt this device has placed them and the wider community at risk of serious harm.
“This incident must be strongly condemned and I would appeal to anyone with information to report it to Police immediately.”