A device left underneath the car of a serving police officer in Dungiven was left directly at the point where the victim's three-year-old daughter normally sits.
Police have branded the attack sickening and a host of local politicians have condemned the incident.
"Today we are investigating a sickening attack on a young mother who serves her community both as a member of police staff and as a part time police officer," said Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan, Head of PSNI Crime Operations Branch.
"The investigation is still at an early stage but a strong line of enquiry is this is the reason she was targeted by violent terrorists.
"Yesterday morning our colleague discovered a suspicious object beside her car in close proximity to her house in Ballyquin Road, Dungiven.
"We assess this was a viable device with explosives attached to a container with flammable liquid. This was designed to cause a fireball which would have engulfed the victim’s car and anyone in it or anyone close by, or those calling to the house…
"What is really distressing is the terrorists placed the bomb at the rear of the car directly at the point where the victim’s 3 year daughter sits.
"This demonstrates the complete and utter disregard for the life of a mother and her toddler, which simply beggars belief.
"While the investigation is at an early stage and detectives are keeping an open mind, a strong line of enquiry is that this attack is the work of the New IRA.
"Also, it is worth reflecting that the attack took place while the rest of the country were pausing to remember, nearly 2 years ago to the day, that this group of wicked individuals murdered a young woman – Lyra McKee – in Creggan.
"It is clear they are still intent on recklessly targeting honest, hard-working members of our community with no concern at all for who they harm or kill in the process.
I appeal to anyone who has any knowledge of this attack, or indeed of anyone involved in dissident republican, or other violent or terrorist, activity to come forward and provide any information they have to the police.
"We particularly want to hear from anyone who was in the area of Ballyquin Road, Dungiven during the evening of Sunday18th into the morning of Monday 19th.
"If you do have any information you need to come forward.
"It is time for people to examine their own consciences and ask themselves whether they support attempting to kill a 3 year old child and her mother."
Please call Terrorism Investigation Unit detectives on 101 quoting reference number 419 19/04/21, or submit a report online using our non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/.
You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org/.
The Ballyquin Road has now re-opened.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.