The killing was widely condemned by politicians and others who questioned the sincerity of the republican movement's professed desire for a lasting peace.
Constable Johnston Beacom was killed when a rocket fired in the Markets district of south Belfast hit his Land-Rover.
The two other policemen were released from hospital after treatment. Many children were playing in the streets of the housing estate, but none was injured.
One woman said: 'When I heard the bang I was worried about my kids. We ran round and saw the jeep, blown to bits. I didn't want to see any more, so I ran back again.' Afterwards a number of local women protested about the attack and said that they did not want such violence in their district.
This is the second killing of members of the security force by the IRA since the Downing Street declaration in mid-December. A soldier was killed by a sniper in south Armagh on 30 December.
Since the declaration the level of violence appears to have fallen but IRA activity has not ceased. There have been about 40 IRA attacks this year, almost all directed against the security forces.
The Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Hugh Annesley, denounced the incident as 'cowardly and vicious'.
Earlier in east Belfast, a soldier was seriously injured in an IRA attack. Last night, a middle-aged man was shot and critically wounded at a house in north Belfast.Reuse content