A group of children picked up a unexploded bomb and handed it to officers when it failed to detonate after being thrown at a Belfast police station.

It was one of two bombs thrown by dissident republicans at Woodbourne police station in west Belfast. Only one bomb went off.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed that the second device was handed in at the station by children as young as nine.

Chief Supt George Clarke said the children were lucky to survive. The device, he said, was "extremely volatile, very, very dangerous, utterly lethal" and could have exploded at any time.

A PSNI spokesperson added: "Initial reports suggested the device handed in by the children was the exploded device but we can now confirm they handed in the unexploded device.

"Nine homes in Woodbourne Crescent and six adjoining businesses have been unable to open and are unlikely to be able to do so for a few more hours as the search at the rear of the station continues."

Democratic Unionist councillor Brian Kingston told of eyewitnesses seeing the primary school-age children holding the bomb in their hands.

He said: "A group aged around nine, 10, 11, mixed boys and girls, came round the side of the police station carrying an object.

"They placed an object on the ground and they scarpered.

"What had happened was that the children had found a second device at the rear of the police station and had decided to carry this round the side of the station."

"This is a combination of childhood innocence and a terrorist attempt to maim and kill.

"The thought of what could have happened to those children if that device had exploded - they could have been ripped apart - doesn't bear thinking about."

Police added there were no reports of any injuries or major damage as a result of the first explosion.