Pak deploys force at nuke facility following terror threat

Pakistani authorities have deployed large contingents of soldiers and policemen at a nuclear facility in Dera Ghazi Khan.

Lahore: Pakistan has deployed large contingents of Army and police at one of the country`s biggest nuclear facilities in Dera Ghazi Khan in the Punjab province following intelligence interceptions of a strike threat from terrorists.

Security was beefed up at sensitive installations, especially at nuclear sites, to avert any attack on the lines of one on Kamra airbase, during Pakistan Defence Day, which is being observed on Thursday, officials said.

"There have been threats to all installations, including the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear site, in the current law and order situation in the country," Dera Ghazi Khan district police chief Chaudhry Saleem told a news agency on phone.

"After the attack on Kamra airbase, we have been asked to remain extra vigilant. Police divisions are ready to respond to any emergency call," he said.

Security had been further enhanced around the nuclear site in Dera Ghazi Khan after the attack on Kamra airbase on August 16, he said.

A Lahore Police official, who did not wish to be named, told a news agency that a circular issued by the Punjab Police chief`s office had directed the police chiefs of 36 districts to beef up security around sensitive installations due to "credible reports of attacks by terrorists".

Earlier, The Express Tribune reported that security had been stepped up at the nuclear facility in Dera Ghazi Khan after the ISI intercepted a telephone call during which militants were heard discussing an attack on the installation.

The daily quoted sources in the military and Punjab Police as saying that the nature of threat at the nuclear installation is "serious", with an 80 percent chance of occurrence.

This could be the first security threat to a nuclear facility in Pakistan and the Army and security forces are taking no risks, the report said.

An unnamed high ranking military officer serving at the installation was quoted as saying: "Dera Ghazi Khan houses one of the largest nuclear facilities in the country and has faced the first ever serious security threat from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan".

According to an official who works at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, a key military and civilian fuel cycle site is located 40 km from Dera Ghazi Khan.

The site comprises uranium milling and mining operations and a uranium hexafluoride conversion plant.

Besides the deployment of security forces inside and around the nuclear installation, three army divisions in the southern part of Punjab were asked to launch a crackdown against banned groups, the daily quoted its sources as saying.

According to the telephone call intercepted by the ISI, three to four vehicles carrying suicide bombers were about to enter Dera Ghazi Khan and could strike the nuclear facilities at any time.
Sources told the daily that, according to precedents, threats intercepted via phone calls often materialised within 72 hours.

Direct threats via phone or letters often do not materialise, the source said.

District police chief Chaudhry Saleem said police had received instructions from the military officer in charge at the nuclear installation to beef up security around the facility as much as possible.

Police have established six new pickets around the nuclear installations and deployed more forces over the past 24 hours, he said.

Sources said a large contingent of military personnel from Multan cantonment has reached the site and beefed up the inner cordon of security.

Military personnel have also been deployed near the border between Punjab and Balochistan.

Sources in law enforcement agencies told the daily that when the Pakistani Taliban attacked Kamra airbase, they announced that they would take revenge for killing of their South Punjab head Abdul Ghaffar Qaisrani by attacking nuclear installations in Dera Ghazi Khan.

Police in Dera Ghazi Khan killed Qaisrani and eight of his companions in a gun battle in the first week of August, almost clearing his network in the area.

Police were able to trace Qaisrani after they interrogated Adnan Khosa, who attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009 with Qaisrani. Khosa is currently imprisoned in Dera Ghazi Khan.

Qaisrani`s elimination caused a major loss to the local Taliban in south Punjab and the militant group vowed to take revenge.

According to local politicians, the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear site and adjacent areas had previously been a target of attacks by Baloch insurgents but not the Taliban.

The Taliban`s threat is alarming for the region, politicians said.

Officials in the counter-terrorism department said there are around a dozen pockets in south Punjab, particularly near the border areas of Dera Ghazi Khan district, where the Taliban is increasing its clout.