Pakistan launches retaliatory airstrikes on ‘terror targets’ inside Iran

ANKARA, TURKIYE - JANUARY 18: An infographic titled "Iran-Pakistan border tensions surge" created in Ankara, Turkiye on January 18, 2024. ( Elmurod Usubaliev - Anadolu Agency )

Pakistan has said it struck “terrorist hideouts” in Iran, less than two days after Tehran launched airstrikes on Pakistani territory.

Media reports suggest that Pakistan hit the Balochistan Liberation Army group (which seeks greater freedom for Balochistan in Pakistan) in southeastern Iran.

“This morning Pakistan undertook a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts in Siestan-o-Baluchistan province of Iran,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A number of terrorists were killed during the operation – codenamed Marg Bar Sarmachar (Death to Sarmachar), it added.

Islamabad had earlier condemned Iran for violating its airspace and carrying out an airstrike, killing two children and injuring three others in its southwestern Balochistan province. It also recalled its ambassador and suspended high-level visits with Tehran.

The ministry said Thursday it had “consistently shared serious concerns about the safe havens and sanctuaries enjoyed by Pakistani-origin terrorists calling themselves Sarmachars on the “ungoverned spaces inside Iran.”

But, it added, because of a “lack of action” the terrorists continued to “spill the blood of innocent Pakistanis with impunity.”

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It said that “this morning’s action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large-scale terrorist activities by these so-called Sarmachars.”

Islamabad said the military action inside Iran “is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats.”

“The sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest which is paramount and cannot be compromised,” said the Foreign Ministry, adding: “Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

At a news conference in Islamabad, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Pakistan has “no interest in escalating any situation.”

Tehran protests attack

Tehran confirmed the attack, lodged a protest and sought “immediate explanation” from Islamabad.

Deputy governor of the province Alireza Marhamati said nine non-Iranian nationals, including two men, three women and four children, were killed in the attack. He added that Iranian security officials are investigating the issue.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra: “Pakistan considers people of Iran as our friends and brothers and we have no interest in escalating any situation.” (Muhammet Nazım Taşcı – Anadolu Agency)

The Pakistani strikes came after Iran launched missile and drone strikes on Tuesday in southwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian claimed yesterday that the Jaish al-Adl militant group was the target of Iranian strikes in Pakistan.

In the first acknowledgment by a senior Iranian government official, Amir-Abdollahian, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, claimed that “no civilians” were targeted in the missile and drone strikes carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in southwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan province on Tuesday.

Iranian media reported that at least two headquarters of the militant group were destroyed in the attack in the Koh e Sabz area of Balochistan.

According to media reports, the strikes were in retaliation for an attack on a police station in the city of Rask in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province in December, which killed 11 police officers.

Amir-Abdollahian said he assured Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar during their meeting on the sidelines of the Davos summit on Tuesday that Iran “respects Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, China offered its role to de-escalate tensions between the neighbouring countries.

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