Pakistan says ‘several terrorists killed’ in strike on militant targets in Iran

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Pakistan used killer drones and rockets to strike separatist Baloch militants inside Iran on Thursday, Pakistani authorities said, two days after Tehran said it had attacked the bases of another group within Pakistani territory.

Iranian media said several missiles hit a village in the Sistan-Baluchistan province that borders Pakistan, killing at least nine people. Earlier reports said three women and four children were killed, all non-Iranians.

The neighbors have had rocky ties in the past, but the strikes are the highest-profile cross-border intrusions in recent years and come amid growing worries about instability in the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted on October 7.

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“A number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, describing it as a “series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts.”

“Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the ministry added in its statement.

“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.”

A senior Pakistani security official told Reuters the military was on “extremely” high alert and would meet any “misadventure” from the Iranian side forcefully.

Pakistani PM cuts short Davos trip

In Islamabad, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar would cut short a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos and return home.

“The precision strikes were carried out using killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions and stand-off weapons,” a Pakistani military statement said. It said the targets were bases used by the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and the associated Baloch Liberation Army.

Iran said on Tuesday it had hit targets inside Pakistan that it alleged were bases of Jaish al Adl (JAA). All the targeted groups are ethnically Baloch, but it was not clear if JAA has links with the other two.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan said civilians were hit and two children killed, warning of consequences for which Tehran would be responsible.

Islamabad recalled its ambassador from Iran on Wednesday in protest against a “blatant breach” of its sovereignty.


Iran summons Pakistan’s charge d’affaires

Iran strongly condemned the strikes, its foreign ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, said, adding that Pakistan’s charge d’affaires, its most senior diplomat in Tehran, had been summoned to give an explanation.

Escalation fears

Iran had been flexing its muscles in the region, even before its cross-border incursion into Pakistan.

It launched strikes on Syria against what Tehran said were ISIS sites and Iraq, where it said it had struck an Israeli espionage center. Baghdad recalled its ambassador from Tehran.

The neighbors had appeared to be improving ties, with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Pakistan’s Kakar meeting at Davos this week, before the Iranian strikes on Pakistan.

Pakistan’s comments after its retaliatory strikes signal a desire to keep the row contained, but analysts warned it could get out of hand.

“Iran’s motivation for attacking Pakistan remains opaque but in light of broader Iranian behaviur in the region it can escalate,” Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert on South Asia security at the U.S. Institute of Peace, told Reuters.

“What will cause anxiety in Tehran is that Pakistan has crossed a line by hitting inside Iranian territory, a threshold that even the US and Israel have been careful to not breach.”

Khwaja Asif, Pakistan’s defense minister until August, said the action was retaliatory.

“A measured response has been given and it was important,” he told Geo TV. “There should be ongoing efforts on the side that this doesn’t escalate.”

Pakistan’s international bonds fell after the strikes. Longer-dated bonds slipped as much as 1.3 cents in early trading though they later trimmed losses, according to Tradeweb data.

The targeted militant groups operate in an area that includes Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan and Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province. Both are restive, mineral-rich and largely underdeveloped.

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