Iran attacks alleged militant bases in Pakistan; Islamabad says ‘unprovoked’ strikes kill 2 children

Iran launched attacks Tuesday in Pakistan targeting what it described as bases for the militant group Jaish al-Adl, potentially further raising tensions in a Middle East already roiled by Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Pakistan said the strikes killed two children and wounded three others in an assault it described as an “unprovoked violation” of its airspace.

Confusion followed the announcement from Iran as state media reports on it soon disappeared. However, the attack inside of nuclear-armed Pakistan by Iran threatens the relations between the two countries, which long have eyed each other with suspicion while maintaining diplomatic relations.

The attack also follows Iranian strikes on Iraq and Syria less than a day earlier, as Tehran lashes out following a dual suicide bombing this month claimed by the Sunni militant group Islamic State that killed over 90 people.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and state television had said that missiles and drones were used in the strikes in Pakistan. Press TV, the English-language arm of Iranian state television, attributed the attack to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Jaish al-Adl, or the “Army of Justice,” is a Sunni militant group founded in 2012 which largely operates across the border in Pakistan. The militants have claimed bombings and kidnapped Iranian border police in the past.

Iran has fought in border areas against the militants, but a missile-and-drone attack on Pakistan is unprecedented for Iran. Iranian reports described the strikes as happening in the mountains of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded rebuke of the strikes.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the unprovoked violation of its airspace by Iran which resulted in death of two innocent children while injuring three girls,” the statement read. “This violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is completely unacceptable and can have serious consequences.”

It added: “Pakistan has always said terrorism is a common threat to all countries in the region that requires coordinated action. Such unilateral acts are not in conformity with good neighborly relations and can seriously undermine bilateral trust and confidence.”

Two Pakistani security officials said the Iranian strikes damaged a mosque in Baluchistan’s Panjgur district, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) inside Pakistan from the Iranian border. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.The attack came even as Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. What the men discussed was not immediately clear.

Baluchistan has faced a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists for more than two decades. Baluch nationalists initially wanted a share of provincial resources, but later initiated an insurgency for independence.

Iran long has suspected Sunni-majority Pakistan as hosting insurgents, possibly at the behest of its regional archrival Saudi Arabia. However, Iran and Saudi Arabia reached a Chinese-mediated détente last March, easing tensions.

Meanwhile, attacks by militants entering from Iran have targeted Pakistani security forces. In April 2023, a militant attack from across the border with Iran killed four Pakistani soldiers in Baluchistan province.

Late Monday, Iran fired missiles into northern Syria targeting the Islamic State group and into Iraq at what it called an Israeli “spy headquarters” near the U.S. Consulate compound in the city of Irbil.

Iraq on Tuesday called the attacks, which killed several civilians, a “blatant violation” of Iraq’s sovereignty and recalled its ambassador from Tehran.

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