Suspected nuclear sites under attack

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber attacked a suspected nuclear-weapons site Friday in Pakistan, raising fears about the security of the nuclear arsenal, while two other terrorist blasts made it another bloody day in the country's struggle against extremism.

Increasingly daring and sophisticated attacks by terrorists allied with al-Qaida on some of Pakistan's most sensitive and best-protected installations have led to warnings that extremists could damage a nuclear facility or seize nuclear material.

Pakistan's nuclear sites are mostly in the northwest of the country, close to the capital, Islamabad, to keep them away from the border with India, but that places them close to Pakistani Taliban extremists, who are massed in the northwest. Al-Qaida has made clear its ambitions to get hold of a nuclear bomb or knowledge of nuclear technology. Several other sites associated with Pakistan's nuclear weapons have been hit previously.

Pakistan is reeling from a wave of terrorist violence that has coincided with the launch of a U.S.-backed ground operation by the military against the country's al-Qaida and Taliban heartland of South Waziristan, on the Afghan border.

A suicide attacker struck a checkpoint Friday morning on the boundary of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, an air force base at Kamra, about 40 miles outside Islamabad, killing eight people, including two security personnel, and wounding 15.

"There were strict security arrangements, so he (the bomber) was intercepted at the first checkpost," local Police Chief Fakhar Sultan said.

The bomber rode up to the checkpoint on a bicycle, explosives strapped to his body. Officials denied that the facility, the major research center for the air force, had links to the nuclear program. However, Pakistan doesn't specify which sites are involved in the program and many independent experts think that Kamra is a nuclear air base.

Separately on Friday, a car bomb ripped through a hotel in an upscale residential neighborhood of Peshawar, wounding more than a dozen people, while a blast also struck a bus that was carrying a wedding party in the Mohmand tribal region, close to the Afghan border. Seventeen people were killed.