Pakistan Launches Retaliatory Strikes on Iran: Escalating Tensions Heighten Concerns of Broader Conflict

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In a significant escalation of regional tensions, Pakistan has launched retaliatory strikes on Iran, targeting alleged terrorist hideouts. The tit-for-tat conflict raises fears of a broader and more volatile confrontation.

Islamabad, January 18, 2024 – Pakistan has initiated a series of “highly coordinated” military strikes against what it claims to be hideouts of armed groups in Iran. The move comes just over 24 hours after Iran conducted air strikes in Balochistan, further intensifying the already strained relations between the neighboring nations and fueling concerns of a potential broader conflict.

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The operation, codenamed “Marg Bar Sarmachar” (Death to Sarmachar), was carried out in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran, resulting in the reported death of a “number of terrorists,” according to a statement from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The exact casualty figures remain undisclosed.

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Pakistan has long voiced its concerns to Iran about the safe havens and sanctuaries allegedly provided to Pakistani-origin terrorists, referred to as “Sarmachars,” within Iran’s ungoverned spaces. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that despite sharing multiple dossiers with concrete evidence, Iran took no substantial action against these alleged terrorists, leading to the present military response.

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The foreign ministry justified the operation, stating, “This morning’s action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large-scale terrorist activities by these Sarmachars. This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats.”

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Iran, in response, summoned the senior-most Pakistani diplomat in Tehran to seek explanations for the military strikes. Iranian state media reported that at least seven people were killed in Thursday morning’s attack.

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The tit-for-tat conflict began when Iran targeted Jaish al-Adl, an armed group, near Panjgur city in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Iran accused the group of multiple attacks, including recent ones in the Iranian city of Rask in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.

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Pakistani interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar had met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Switzerland just hours before the initial Iranian attack. However, Amirabdollahian justified Iran’s actions, asserting that the group responsible had taken shelter in parts of Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

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While emphasizing Iran’s respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Amirabdollahian made it clear that Iran would not compromise on its own security. The situation remains volatile, with the international community closely watching the developments in the region.

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