Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Militants Invade Pakistani Base in Bin Laden Revenge Strike
Pakistani armed forces on Monday retook a military base in Karachi following 16 hours of fighting with at least six Taliban militants, Reuters reported (see GSN, May 17).
An estimated contingent of six individuals, armed with firearms and grenades, harmed or wrecked two aircraft at the PNS Mehran facility and surrounded the site's central office in the strike that started at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. The ensuing battle resulted in the deaths of no fewer than 10 Pakistani troops and injuries to 20 military personnel; three gunmen died, a fourth was thought to have been interred in debris and two others to have escaped, the official said.
The facility is located 15 miles from Masroor Air Base, a potential holding site for Pakistani nuclear weapons, according to Reuters.
The militants, each between 20 and 25 years of age, infiltrated the Karachi facility by climbing two ladders to the top of its concrete perimeter barrier and cutting through roughly 5 feet of barbed wire.
The Pakistani Taliban characterized the strike as a revenge attack for the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (see GSN, May 13). "It was the revenge of martyrdom of Osama bin Laden. It was the proof that we are still united and powerful," spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters.
The incident raises new questions about whether the Pakistani armed forces can defend installations from attacks such as the 2009 assault on the army's central facility in Rawalpindi, according to Reuters.
"If these people can just enter a military base like this, then how can any Pakistani feel safe," said engineering firm administrator Mazhar Iqbal, 28 (Aziz/Georgy, Reuters I, May 22).
The Pakistani armed forces' Strategic Plans Division oversees the country's estimated arsenal of between 60 and 120 nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. Pakistan's president and prime minister respectively hold the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the country's National Command Authority, which manages the arsenal's potential fielding and use.
The Pakistani government maintains it would be impossible for an extremist entity to seize any of the country's nuclear weapons. The armaments are built for delivery by missiles or aircraft and held at guarded, undisclosed facilities generally scattered in the country's Punjab province, according to specialists; the jurisdiction is far from Pakistan's region of highest Taliban activity, though extremist operations have been rising in the area, Reuters reported.
Pakistan's Kahuta nuclear weapons laboratory as well as additional atomic sites are located close to Islamabad, which is fairly well protected, according to Reuters (Reuters II, May 23).
Meanwhile, former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week discouraged the United States from ending financial assistance to Pakistan following the discovery of bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad.
"We ought to take a deep breath and recognize it would make us feel good for about five minutes if we cut off aid to Pakistan. And recognize the relationship with that country is complex, it is important. And it is imperfect. We ought to be willing to ask the tough questions, to do it in a measured tone of voice, and not react and say cut off all the money. They're bad, they are double dealing," Rumsfeld told Fox News.
"The reality is it is a Muslim country with nuclear weapons. The last thing we want is that to be a failed state. It would be a terrible situation if radical Islamists took over that country.
"I've heard no evidence that anyone in any level of the Pakistan government, the military or the intelligence had information as to where Osama bin Laden was located," he said, adding it is "perfectly possible to hide in plain sight."
Rumsfeld added: "My guess is he had a very tight support network of a very limited number of people, one or two maybe outside, who managed the support for him. And he was successful in staying hidden for a very long time.
"We did cut off all of our military to military relation in the 80s, 90s. They exploded a nuclear weapon [and] we said that is terrible and let's not talk to them. That doesn't get us far," Rumsfeld said (Greta Van Susteren, Fox News, May 19).
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