A car leaves the district headquarters hospital (DHQ) in Panjgur town of Balochistan province on January 17, 2024 where victims of an Iranian air strike were moved earlier this morning. Image Credit: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Tehran on Wednesday, a day after Iran launched airstrikes on Pakistan that it claimed targeted bases for a militant group.

Islamabad angrily denounced the attack as a “blatant violation” of its airspace and said it killed two children.

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Tuesday’s strike happened in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.

Iran's Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian said it hit militants in "missile and drone" strikes, saying no Pakistani national was targeted. Pakistan has not confirmed the nature of the violation, or the location of the strikes.

Only "terrorists" were hit, the Iranian foreign minister said at Davos, Switzerland, where he was participating in the World Economic Forum, alleging that those targeted were linked to Israel.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, announced that Islamabad is recalling the country’s ambassador to Iran over the strikes.

“Last night’s unprovoked and blatant breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty by Iran is a violation of international law and the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations,” she said in a televised address

Baloch added that Pakistan asked the Iranian ambassador, who was visiting Tehran when the attack took place, not to return. Iran did not immediately acknowledge Pakistan’s decision.

Jaish Al Adl: Who are they?
Jaish Al Adl was founded in 2012. The group has claimed bombings and kidnapped members of Iran’s border police in the past.
In December, suspected Jaish Al Adl members killed 11 people and wounded eight others in a nighttime attack on a police station in southeastern Iran.
Another recent attack killed another police officer in the area.
In 2019, Jaish Al Adl claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing targeting a bus that killed 27 members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
Iran has fought in border areas against militants, but a missile-and-drone attack on Pakistan is unprecedented.
It remains unclear why Iran launched the attack now, particularly as its foreign minister had met Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister the same day at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
After the Daesh (Islamic State) bombings this month, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry alleged the two bombers involved in the attack had travelled from Afghanistan into Iran through its southeastern border at the Jalg crossing.

Meanwhile, China urged Pakistan and Iran to show “restraint”.

“We call on both sides to exercise restraint, avoid actions that would lead to an escalation of tension and work together to maintain peace and stability,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular briefing.

Iranian state media reports, which were later withdrawn without explanation, said the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard targeted bases belonging to the militant group Jaish Al Adl, or the “Army of Justice.”

The group, which has spread across Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, acknowledged the assault in a statement shared online.

Mosque and other buildings hit

Six bomb-carrying drones and rockets struck homes that the militants claim housed children and wives of their fighters. Jaish Al Adl said the attack killed two children and wounded two women and a teenage girl.

A Pakistani intelligence report said the two children killed were a 6-year-old girl and an 11-month-old boy. Three women were injured, aged between 28 and 35.

The report also said three or four drones were fired from the Iranian side, hitting a mosque and other buildings, including a house.

A senior Pakistani security official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to reporters, said Iran had shared no information prior to the strike.

He said Pakistan reserved the right to respond at a time and place of the country’s choosing and such a strike would be measured and in line with public expectations.

“The dangerous precedent set by Iran is destabilising and has reciprocal implications,” the official said.

Iran’s attack on Pakistan came less than a day after Iranian strikes on northern Iraq that killed several civilians.

Iraq recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultations and summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires in Baghdad on Tuesday in protest. Iran separately struck Syria as well.