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No plans to attack Pakistani nukes, says Taliban

Last updated on: May 28, 2011 16:18 IST

No plans to attack Pakistani nukes, says Taliban



The Taliban has said they have no plans to attack Pakistan's nuclear arsenal as their stepped-up violent campaign to avenge Osama bin Laden's death has renewed fears that the country's warheads could be vulnerable.

Declaring that "Pakistan is the only nuclear power state," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said that his group had no intention of changing the fact, Wall Street Journal reported.

A well coordinated Taliban attack on Pakistan key naval airbase at Karachi had triggered fresh global alarm that radical militant groups operating from the country's restive tribal areas bordering Afghanistan might be out to snatch nuclear weapons.

Seeking to dismiss these concerns, Ehsan claimed that United States was using this as an excuse to pressurise Pakistan government and military into fighting Taliban, whom he portrayed as country's true protectors.

"Isn't it a shame for us to have the Islamic bomb, and even then we are bowing down to the pressures of America?" the Taliban spokesman mocked.

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Image: A handout image shows a Hatf IX (NASR) missile being fired during a test at an undisclosed location in Pakistan. Pakistan on April 11 test fired a newly developed short range surface to surface ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear warheads, the military said
Photographs: Hanout/Reuters

Taliban's 'tailored' remarks

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WSJ said Ehsan's remarks appeared tailored to appeal to that increasingly nationalist mainstream, where conspiracy theories flourish about American, Indian and Israeli plots to deprive Pakistan of its atomic arsenal.

Pakistan's nuclear capability is cherished here as the guarantor of safety from India's far larger conventional military.

Pakistan says its nuclear arsenal, which is believed to include about 100 warheads, is safe. Officials say facilities that store the weapons are well guarded, and that rigorous checks screen out political and religious extremists from the nuclear programme.

Image: Taliban fighters pose with weapons as they sit in their compound at an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan
Photographs: Reuters
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Taliban still poses considerable risk to Pak installations

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But US and other Western officials have raised doubts about those guarantees in part because they have little visibility into Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Their access is limited by the military, which fears both allies and enemies ultimately aim to take the weapons away. Adding to concerns about Pakistan's nuclear programme is the Taliban's proven ability to penetrate high-security areas, such as the naval air station it attacked Sunday in Karachi, the country largest city.

A base storing atomic weapons is about 15 miles (24 kilometres) from the air station. It took hundreds of navy commandos and marines and paramilitary soldiers more than 15 hours to clear the navy base in Karachi.

Ten people were killed and a pair of American made maritime surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft, each priced at $36 million, were destroyed.

Image: Men watch as a plume of smoke rises from the Mehran naval aviation base after it was attacked by militants in Karachi
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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