Published Saturday, 14 December 2013
Dissident republican grouping Oglaigh na hEirann has claimed responsibility for leaving the device in a black sports bag in the Exchange Street West area of Cathedral Quarter.
It caused a small explosion at 7pm which police said had the potential to kill.
Around 1,000 people were evacuated from restaurants and other premises, including a hotel, The MAC, the cathedral and apartments, on one of the busiest nights in the run-up to Christmas.
No-one was hurt when the device went off on the footpath while the area was being cleared, about an hour after a warning call was received by the Irish News - but it contained incorrect details.
Initially it was thought the bomb part-exploded, but police on Saturday revealed: "The device, which fully exploded, consisted of explosives and flammable liquid. It had been left on the street about 150 metres from the location identified in a warning call to a newspaper."
Police have released a photograph of the Slazinger holdall which contained the bomb.
Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said: "This was an attack on the people of Belfast going about their normal lives on a busy night for socialising in the city.
"This attack ruined the night out for these people."
A statement from Stormont leaders Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness hit out at those responsible, describing their actions as "despicable".
DUP leader Mr Robinson said: "Once again we are witnessing the work of a mindless minority who are intent on taking the heart out of the city and wreaking havoc on the lives and businesses of the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland."
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said: "Their actions have done nothing to move our society forward but instead have caused distress to local residents, disruption to Christmas revellers and loss of revenue for surrounding businesses."
A statement from the owners of The Potted Hen restaurant thanked people for their support and said things have returned to normal on Saturday.
Dermot and Catherine Regan continued: "Thankfully no one was injured and there was no physical damage to the area.
"We are back to normal service from lunchtime today and we will be contacting everyone who had booked for last night and whose evening entertainment was ruined.
"We are really thankful for all the messages of support from the public and from our customers. The Cathedral Quarter is a very special place and we are glad that things are back to normal today."
Security has been stepped up in Belfast city centre within the past month following a series of dissident attacks, including an attempt to bomb Victoria Square Shopping Centre.
Police recently revealed that 323 checkpoints have been mounted and a total of 1,784 cars have been screened between 25 November and 10 December.
They have urged people living in north and west Belfast to remain vigilant this weekend.
© UTV News