Islamabad recalls ambassador to Iran and bars envoy after air strikes

Tehran launched attack on border with Pakistan a day after firing missiles at Iraq and Syria

Iran defends strikes inside Iraq and Pakistan

Iran defends strikes inside Iraq and Pakistan
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Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Tehran and barred the Iranian ambassador to the country on Wednesday after Iran launched air strikes at targets on Pakistani territory.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, announced that Islamabad was recalling its 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.

Ms Baloch said Pakistan had asked the Iranian ambassador, who was visiting Tehran when the attack took place, not to return.

“This violation of Pakistan's sovereignty is completely unacceptable and can have serious consequences,” the Foreign Ministry said.

It said the strike “resulted in the death of two innocent children while injuring three girls”.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry later said the Iranian strikes had "caused serious damage to bilateral ties".

Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani received a phone call from Iran's Hossein Amirabdollahian while on a visit to Uganda, the ministry said.

Mr Jilani "firmly underscored that the attack conducted by Iran inside Pakistani territory, on January 16, 2024, was not only a serious breach of Pakistan's sovereignty but was also an egregious violation of international law and the spirit of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Iran", it added.

"Pakistan reserved the right to respond to this provocative act," it said, adding that no country should tread the "perilous path" of unilateral actions.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary General Antonio Guterres was "deeply concerned" about the Iranian strikes in Pakistan.

"He again appeals in the strongest possible term for restraint and avoidance of any further escalation," Mr Dujarric told reporters.

Iran says its target was 'Iranian terrorist group'

Mr Amirabdollahian said earlier in the day that his country's armed forces were aiming at an "Iranian terrorist group" in Pakistan.

"None of the nationals of the friendly and brotherly country of Pakistan were targeted by Iranian missiles and drones," he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"The so-called Jaish Al Adl group, which is an Iranian terrorist group, was targeted," he said.

Iran's state-run Nour News agency said early on Wednesday the attack destroyed the Pakistan headquarters of Jaish Al Adl, a separatist militant group that has claimed attacks on Iranian security forces.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency said two of the group's bases in Pakistan's Balochistan province were “specifically targeted and successfully demolished by a combination of missile and drone attacks” late on Tuesday, without saying who was behind the attack.

Mr Amirabdollahian said Iran's attack on "Pakistan's soil" was a response to the Jaish Al Adl group's recent deadly attacks in Iran, particularly on the city of Rask in the south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

"The group has taken shelter in some parts of Pakistan's Balochistan province," he said, adding that "we've talked with Pakistani officials several times on this matter".

He said Iran respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan but would not "allow the country's national security to be compromised or played with".

Mr Amirabdollahian had met Pakistan's caretaker prime minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar hours before the strike on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry did not say where the attack took place but the media reported that it was near Panjgur in south-west Balochistan, which shares a 750km border with Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Abdul Hameed, who is in charge of the government-linked paramilitary Levies force in the Kosab area, told The National that three missiles were fired at a home in Kosab village, in the Panjgur district of Balochistan.

Mr Hameed said two children were killed and four women were injured as a result of the strike.

“Only the house targeted in the strike was damaged, and there was no other damage to nearby places,” he said.

He said the home's owners had a business selling Iranian diesel.

“In border areas of Balochistan, local tickets are issued legally to the dealers, who cross the border into Iran and bring diesel for sale in local markets in Balochistan,” Mr Hameed said.

“The house is owned by three men, who are close relatives, who do the business of Iranian diesel and visit Iran from time to time. However, at the time of the attack, they were not at home and only children and women became the victims.”

Mr Hameed said he had not seen Jaish Al Adl militants in the area. But he said he had heard from locals about their movements.

“But the strike killed children and women, who were definitely innocent,” he said.

Fall-out from Iran strikes on Kurdish region

Meanwhile, Baghdad recalled its ambassador from Tehran on Tuesday over the missile strikes on the Iraqi Kurdish region on Monday, which Baghdad condemned as a “clear act of aggression”.

Four people were killed and six others wounded in the attack, said the Iraqi Kurdish region's security council.

Baghdad challenged Tehran's claim that the missiles were aimed at Israel's intelligence services in response to recent Israeli assassinations of Iranian and pro-Iranian commanders.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani discussed the attack with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Davos on Tuesday, according to the White House.

“Mr Sullivan and Mr Al Sudani discussed the importance of stopping attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria, and committed to enhancing security co-operation as part of a long-term, sustainable defence partnership,” its said.

Iraq filed a complaint against Iran at the UN Security Council, its Foreign Ministry said.

In two separate letters to the UN Secretary General and UN Security Council, the ministry “stressed that this aggression is a flagrant violation to the sovereignty of Iraq, its security and the security of the people of Iraq”.

Mr Al Sudani's National Security Adviser Qassim Al Araji, who is leading an investigation into the attack in Erbil, said Iran's “claims of targeting a Mossad headquarters are baseless”.

Masrour Barzani, Prime Minister of the Iraqi Kurdish region, said in Davos that there was “no reason for these attacks and there is no excuse”.

“These attacks should not remain without a response,” he said.

The strikes come during heightened tensions in the region and fears of a spillover of the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

In an emergency session on Wednesday the Arab League discussed the Iranian strikes on Erbil and adopted a resolution to support Iraq, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Arab League presented and voted on a draft resolution for voting that condemns the Iranian aggression on Iraq and supports its rightful position in affirming respect for its sovereignty and security,” it added.

Updated: January 17, 2024, 6:55 PM