LONDON (AP) — A bomb hidden beneath an off-duty policeman’s car parked on a major road in Northern Ireland was discovered before it could explode Sunday, police said.

The booby-trap device was detected on the vehicle, parked in east Belfast, police said. It was “clearly intended to kill the police officer,” assistant chief constable George Hamilton said. Bomb disposal officers rushed to the scene, and several nearby homes were evacuated.

No one claimed responsibility for planting the device, but Hamilton said police believe dissident groups were behind the threat.

Militant dissidents have recently targeted police with occasional bombings and shootings in the British territory.

In November, an Irish Republican Army faction shot dead a prison officer in an ambush as he drove to work. In April 2011, a 26-year-old newly-qualified policeman was killed by a booby-trap bomb that exploded under his car in Omagh, County Tyrone.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.