A large, viable bomb discovered in an abandoned van in Northern Ireland was made safe by army bomb disposal experts, police said Saturday.

The bomb was left on a country road outside the southeastern city of Newry, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland.

“A viable explosive device was discovered and made safe by army technical officers,” a police spokesman said.

The suspicious vehicle was first spotted on Thursday.

Northern Ireland's regional development minister Danny Kennedy, who represents the Newry area, said the device was aimed at killing members of the security forces.

“Clearly this was an attempt to lure a police patrol into that area, with potentially lethal consequences,” he said.

He said the plotters were “dangerous and dedicated terrorists, who are determined to cause serious harm, injury and death to members of the security forces regardless of the consequences to local communities”.

In addition to the discovery of the substantial device near the border, detectives found a smaller device under a car in north Belfast.

Sporadic unrest and bomb threats continue in the province despite the 1998 peace accords that largely ended the Troubles, the three decades of sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics that left more than 3 000 dead. - Sapa-AFP