Islamabad, Pakistan — Pakistan hit Iran with “highly coordinated” military strikes on Thursday morning, a little more than 24 hours after Iranian air strikes in Balochistan, further raising tensions between the neighbours and sparking fears of a broader conflict.
On Thursday morning, according to a statement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan conducted what it called an “intelligence-based operation” against hideouts of armed groups in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran.
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Codenamed “Marg Bar Sarmachar” (Death to Saramchar), the so-called operation resulted in the death of a “number of terrorists”, Pakistan said, without specifying how many people had been killed.
The response comes a day after Iran launched air strikes using “drones and missiles” against Jaish al-Adl, an armed group, near Panjgur city in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, bordering Iran. Tehran has accused the Jaish al-Adl of multiple attacks in the past.
Pakistan reacted to the Iranian strike – which killed two children and injured three others – by calling it “unacceptable” and said the country reserves the right to respond to this “illegal act”.
The ministry in its statement on Thursday said that during the last several years, Iran has been informed about safe havens enjoyed by armed rebel groups seeking secession for Balochistan, Pakistan’s southwestern province which borders Iran.
“Pakistan also shared multiple dossiers with concrete evidence of the presence and activities of these terrorists,” the ministry said.
However, it added, that due to lack of action from the Iranian government, Pakistan chose to respond considering “credible intelligence”.
“Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 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,” the statement added.
The Iranian government has not acknowledged the Pakistani attack as yet.
Pakistan had earlier recalled its envoy from Tehran in a series of moves to show its displeasure with the Iranian attack. It also said that it would bar Iran’s ambassador to Islamabad — who is currently out of Pakistan — from returning to the mission.
The Pakistani interim Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar met Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Switzerland on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, hours before Iran’s attack.
However, on Wednesday, Amirabdollahian said the attack on “Pakistan’s soil” was in response to the group’s recent attacks on the Iranian city of Rask in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.
Emphasising that while Iran respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan, he said the country would make no compromises on its own security.
“The group has taken shelter in some parts of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. We’ve talked with Pakistani officials several times on this matter,” he added.