The U.S. has started transferring American nuclear weapons stationed at an airbase in southeastern Turkey to Romania, the independent Euractiv website reported on Thursday.
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The reported move comes after a U.S.-based think tank said on Monday that the stockpile at Incirlik airbase, which consists of some 50 nuclear bombs, was at risk of being captured by "terrorists or other hostile forces."
"It's not easy to move 20 plus nukes," a source told Euractiv, adding that the transfer to the Romanian base of Deveselu has posed technical and political challenges. The report noted that the move has especially enraged Russia.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry strongly denied that any U.S. nuclear weapons were transferred to Romania.
While critics have long been alarmed about the nuclear stockpile at Incirlik airbase, the aftermath of the failed military coup in Turkey on July 15 has sparked renewed fear.
"Whether the U.S. could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question," said the Stimson Center report.
Incirlik, located just 110 kilometers (70 miles) from the border with Syria, is a major NATO base and a crucial launching pad for the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIS.
Incirlik hosts aircraft from the United States, Germany, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar involved in the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS.
In an interview in July, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had appeared to suggest Ankara could open up Incirlik to Russia, a move that could raise concern among Turkey's NATO partners already using the base.