Taliban raid never endangered Pakistan's nuclear stockpile, says DOD

"I do not have any indication that [the Kamra] attack has endangered the Pakistani nuclear stockpile," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said, referring to the Thursday's attempt by Taliban gunmen to overrun the Minhas air base in Kamra, northwest of Islamabad. 


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Taliban militants armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide bombs launched a headlong attack into Minhas, exchanging fire with Pakistani security forces after breaching the base's outer perimeter, according to Reuters. 

Security forces inside the base reportedly opened fire on a group of militants wearing vests strapped with explosives as they tried to reach the base's aircraft hangars. 

In the ensuing gun battle, Taliban fighters positioned outside the base's main gates launched rocket-propelled grenades at security forces as they attempted to stop the would-be suicide bombers from reaching the military aircraft. 

In the end, Pakistani forces were able to repel the Taliban assault, but only after calling for reinforcements from Pakistani commando units and police forces stationed nearby, according to news reports. Eight Taliban fighters and one Pakistani soldier were killed in the battle. 

After the attack, Pakistani military officials confirmed to Reuters there were no nuclear weapons being housed at Minhas, which is located with the country's premiere air force research and development facility near Kamra. 

"No air base is a nuclear air base in Pakistan," a Pakistani military spokesman told the news agency. 

For their part, Little said the Pentagon continues to "work closely and on regular basis with Pakistani counterparts towards the safety of their nuclear program." 

While reiterating that Thursday's attack did not put that program in jeopardy, Little said DOD leaders remain convinced that Islamabad's vast nuclear arsenal is safe.

"It is our sense that the Pakistani government maintains good security around their nuclear arsenal," he said. 

The attack comes days after Pakistan kicked off a new counterterrorism offensive against Taliban sanctuaries located in the volatile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the northwest part of the country. 

Nearly 30 militants were killed by Pakistani troops in the Orakzai tribal area in northwest Pakistan since Sunday. 

Pakistan's military has hit the Orakzai region particularly hard over the past few days, looking to flush insurgent groups holed up in the area. 

On Sunday, Pakistani fighters bombed suspected militant hideouts in the area, reportedly killing 10 Taliban-affiliated fighters. 

But Taliban fighters struck back on Tuesday, killing two Pakistani troops and injuring 16 after they ambushed the soldiers patrolling in Orakzai. 

Despite this new counterterrorism assault in the tribal areas, Islamabad continues to refuse to move its troops into the dangerous North Waziristan region. 

Hakimullah Mehsud, the alleged leader of the Pakistani Taliban, is among several suspected militants reportedly hiding in the region.


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