At least nine people have been killed after Pakistan said it used “killer” drones and rockets in a retaliatory strike on Iranian territory early this morning.
Iranian media said several missiles hit a village in the Sistan Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan, with four children among the dead.
“A number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.
It described the airstrikes as a “series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts”.
“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 ministry added.
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In a statement, the country’s military said: “The precision strikes were carried out using killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions and stand-off weapons.”
It said the targets were used by the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and the Baloch Liberation Army.
Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister, Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar, will cut short a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos following the strikes, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Iran has condemned the airstrikes, saying those killed were civilians, and has summoned Pakistan’s charge d’affaires to explain the action.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state TV that “four children, three women and two men, who were foreign nationals, have been killed”.
The attack follows Iran’s strikes on Tuesday on Pakistani soil that killed two children in the southwestern Baluchistan province.
Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over border attacks, with each side blaming the other for turning a blind eye to the militants.
HalVash, an advocacy group for the Baluch people, shared images online that appeared to show the remains of the munitions used in the attack. It said a number of homes had been struck in Saravan, a city in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan.
But while the seeming tit-for-tat exchange has stoked local tensions and spread fears of a wider regional conflict breaking out from Israel’s war in Gaza, both sides have targeted the same group of insurgents, located on either side of their mutual border.
On Tuesday, Iran targeted Jaish al Adl, or the Army of Justice, an outlawed Sunni Muslim separatist group, which is anti-Iranian and seeks independence for Iran’s eastern Sistan and Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan provinces, making it a common target for both governments.
There has been a low-level insurgency by nationalists for more than two decades, and like other Baluchi separatist active groups in the area, Jaish al Adl has a common goal of an independent Baluchistan for ethnic Baluch areas in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
The Pakistani strikes are the latest in a number of attacks on foreign soil in the last week or so.
Fourteen missile sites were targeted at around 11.59pm local time on Wednesday, said US Central Command.
On Monday, Iranian strikes on Iraq and Syria targeted what it called an Israeli “spy headquarters” in the city of Irbil and the Islamic State terror group respectively. It led to Iraq recalling its ambassador from Iran.
After the latest strikes, Turkey’s foreign ministry called for Iran, Iraq and Pakistan to show restraint and common sense after an escalation of tensions.
The Taliban, which controls Afghanistan, also called on Iran and Pakistan to resolve their differences through “diplomacy and dialogue”.