Increasingly daring and sophisticated attacks by terrorists allied with al Qaida on some of Pakistan’s most sensitive and best-protected installations have led to warnings that extremists could damage a nuclear facility or seize nuclear material.
Pakistan's nuclear sites are mostly in the northwest of the country, close to the capital, Islamabad, to keep them away from the border with archenemy India, but that places them close to Pakistani Taliban extremists, who are massed in the northwest.
Al Qaida has made clear its ambitions to get hold of a nuclear bomb or knowledge of nuclear technology. Several other sites associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have been hit previously.
Pakistan is reeling from a wave of terrorist violence that’s coincided with the launch of a U.S.-backed ground operation by the military against the country’s al Qaida and Taliban heartland of South Waziristan, on the Afghan border.
A suicide attacker struck a checkpoint Friday morning on the boundary of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, an air force base at Kamra, about 40 miles outside Islamabad, killing eight people, including two security personnel, and wounding 15.
“There were strict security arrangements, so he (the bomber) was intercepted at the first checkpost,” local Police Chief Fakhar Sultan said.
Many of the attacks have been carried out in a deadly collaboration between Taliban extremists from the northwest and militants from Punjab, the country’s most heavily populated province.
The military is a favorite target. Earlier this month, a team of commando-style assailants shot its way into the military headquarters at Rawalpindi. This week, gunmen ambushed and killed a brigadier general in Islamabad, spraying his army jeep with bullets.