Pakistan strikes militant targets inside Iran

Pakistan's military launched targeted strikes inside Iran on Thursday against separatist Balochi militants, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced. This action follows Tehran's admission of attacking bases within Pakistan two days prior, targeting a different group.

Publication: 18.01.2024 - 10:17
Pakistan strikes militant targets inside Iran
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These strikes, marking a significant escalation in cross-border tensions, prompted Iran to seek explanations from Pakistan, as reported by the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Iran’s media reported the missile attack in Sistan-Baluchestan province, which borders Pakistan, resulted in the deaths of three women and four children, all non-Iranians.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry stated that the operation, based on precise intelligence, successfully eliminated several terrorists. It emphasized Pakistan's respect for Iran's sovereignty and territorial integrity, asserting the strikes were solely for Pakistan's security and national interests.

Tehran has officially requested Islamabad to clarify the rationale behind the strikes. A Pakistani intelligence source, speaking to Reuters, confirmed the military aircraft's involvement. According to an Islamabad official, the operation targeted militants from the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), a group advocating for Balochistan's independence from Pakistan.

Following Iran's claim of attacking Israel-linked militant bases in Pakistan on Tuesday, Pakistan condemned the action as a blatant violation of its sovereignty, leading to the recall of its ambassador from Iran.

Amid these developments, analysts express concern over potential escalation. Asfandyr Mir, a South Asia security expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, suggests Iran's aggressive stance in the region could exacerbate tensions. He notes Pakistan's unprecedented move of striking inside Iranian territory, a boundary not even crossed by the U.S. or Israel.

The BLF and Jaish al Adl (JAA), the groups targeted by Pakistan and Iran respectively, are active in the border regions of Pakistan's Balochistan and Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan. Both groups have historically challenged state authority in these underdeveloped, mineral-rich areas.

The BLF is engaged in an insurgency against the Pakistani state, often targeting Chinese nationals and investments in Balochistan. The JAA, a Sunni Islamist group, poses a threat to Shiite-majority Iran and has previously attacked its Revolutionary Guard Corps. The group's former incarnation, Jundallah, had ties with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

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