Alarmed by a slew of terror attacks on sensitive military installations in Pakistan, the US is putting in place "a crack unit" of its elite troops to seal off that country's nuclear weapons and ensure they do not fall into the hands of militants, a media report claimed yesterday.
The US army is training the crack unit so that it could seal off and snatch back Pakistani nuclear weapons in the event of militants, "possibly from inside the country's security apparatus," getting their hands on a nuclear device or materials that could make one, The Sunday Times reported.
It said the specialised unit would be charged with recovering the nuclear materials and securing them.
"The move follows a series of attacks on sensitive military installations over the past two years, several of which housed nuclear facilities, and rising tension that has seen a series of official complaints by the US authorities to Islamabad in the past fortnight," the report said.
Citing Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA officer who used to run the US energy department's intelligence unit, it said, "What you have in Pakistan is nuclear weapons mixed with the highest density of extremists in the world, so we have a right to be concerned."
"There have been attacks on army bases which stored nuclear weapons and there have been breaches and infiltrations
by terrorists into military facilities."
But Pakistani foreign office said Sunday Pakistan's strategic assets are as safe as those of any other nuclear weapon's state and are fully safeguarded and secure under a well-established command and control system.
When his attention was drawn to a report on the Times Online website Sunday on the safety of Pakistan's strategic assets and the threat of their falling into the hands of the militants, a foreign office spokesman dismissed it as the 'outlandish musings by an academic'.
Online news agency quoted the spokesman as telling a private TV channel that the report was part of a 'conspiracy' against Pakistan.
"Pakistan's nukes are safe and neither the militants nor any other group was capable enough to take over our atomic assets," the spokesman added.
He also rejected the suggestion that there was any danger of Pakistan's strategic assets falling into the wrong hands.
Pakistan is thought to possess about 80 nuclear warheads.