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Pakistan launches retaliatory airstrikes on Iran after Tehran attack, killing at least 9 people

On Thursday, Pakistan’s air force conducted retaliatory airstrikes in the early hours on alleged militant positions in Iran. The attack resulted in at least 9 casualties and escalated tensions between the two neighboring nations.

A man looks at a television screen after the Pakistani foreign ministry said the country conducted strikes inside Iran targeting separatist militants, two days after Tehran said it attacked Israel-linked militant bases inside Pakistani territory, in Karachi, Pakistan January 18, 2024. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

The airstrikes in Sistan and Baluchestan province came in response to Iran’s assault on Tuesday within Pakistani territory, which resulted in the tragic death of two children in the southwestern Baluchistan province.

The airstrikes pose a threat to diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries. Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have harbored mutual suspicions for an extended period, particularly in relation to militant attacks.

The attacks have also heightened the risk of violence spreading in the unsettled Middle East, which is already grappling with Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, Iran conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria late on Monday in response to an Islamic State-claimed suicide bombing that resulted in over 90 casualties earlier this month. In response to these developments, Iraq has recalled its ambassador from Iran for consultations.

The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan characterized their offensive as “a sequence of meticulously coordinated and precisely targeted military strikes.”

The Foreign Ministry stated, “The action undertaken this morning was based on credible intelligence indicating an imminent large-scale terrorist threat. This move reflects Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to safeguard and defend its national security against all potential threats.”

Numerous insurgent factions are active in both Iran and Pakistan, among them the Jaish al-Adl Sunni separatist group, which was the focus of Tehran’s recent airstrike. These groups share a common objective of establishing an independent Baluchistan encompassing the ethnic Baluch regions in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.

For over two decades, Baluch nationalists have been engaged in a subdued insurgency in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and the neighboring Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran.

Pakistan named its operation “Marg Bar Sarmachar.” In Iranian Farsi, “marg bar” translates to “death to” — a well-known expression in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, commonly used to refer to both the United States and Israel. In the local Baluch language, “sarmachar” signifies guerrilla and is employed by the militants operating in the cross-border region.

In a telephone interview, Ali Reza Marhamati, a deputy governor of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, provided the casualty figures from Thursday’s strike. He stated that the fatalities comprised three women and four children. At the moment, he did not offer further details, except to mention that the deceased individuals were not Iranian citizens.

HalVash, an advocacy group for the Baluch people, posted images on the internet that seemed to depict the remnants of the munitions employed in the assault. The group reported that several residences in Saravan, a city in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, had been targeted. They shared videos illustrating a mud-walled building in ruins, with smoke ascending following the strike.

The events on Thursday transpired a day following Pakistan’s decision to recall its ambassador to Tehran, a response to the strikes conducted by Iran within Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province on Tuesday. Iran asserted that the targets were bases belonging to a militant Sunni separatist group. This action by Iran elicited strong condemnation from Pakistan, which decried the attack as a “blatant violation” of its airspace and lamented the tragic death of two children.


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