Pakistan issued a strongly worded condemnation on Wednesday, denouncing what it described as the “unprovoked violation of its airspace by Iran”.
The incident, according to a Foreign Office (FO) statement released after midnight, resulted in the “deaths of two innocent children while injuring of three girls”.
The statement did not mention the location where the casualties took place. But Iranian state media said the attack took place in the border town of Panjgur in Balochistan.
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said the “focal point of this operation was the region known as Kouh-Sabz (green mountain)” in Balochistan.
“Two key strongholds of the Jaysh al-Dhulm (Jaish al-Adl) terrorist group in Pakistan” were “specifically targeted and successfully demolished by a combination of missile and drone attacks”, the Tasnim news agency said.
Local authorities said they had also received information about such an attack, but had no further details. Reports from the area suggested that a missile hit a mosque, partially damaging it and injuring some people.
The incident came after Iran launched missile attacks on “spy headquarters” and “terrorist” targets in Syria, and in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
According to AFP, hours before the attack, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar had met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The FO vehemently protested the “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty”, calling it “completely unacceptable” and warning it “can have serious consequences”.
It expressed concern that the “illegal act” took place despite the existence of several established channels of communication between Pakistan and Iran, adding that a “strong protest has already been lodged with the concerned senior official in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran”.
It said: “Additionally, the Iranian Charge d’affaires has been called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey our strongest condemnation of this blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and that the responsibility for the consequences will lie squarely with Iran.”
“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 neighbourly relations and can seriously undermine bilateral trust and confidence,” the statement concluded.
Last month, at least 11 Iranian police officers were killed in an attack overnight on a police station in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, while visiting the site, had urged Pakistan to prevent terrorist groups from establishing bases within its borders, the official news agency of Iran reported at the time. He had also noted that initial investigations suggested the assailants had entered Iran from Pakistan.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani in a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian had strongly condemned the terrorist attack and reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to Iran in combating terrorism.
Similar attacks have occurred previously, including on July 23 last year when four policemen were killed while on patrol. That came two weeks after two policemen and four assailants were killed in a shootout in the province, claimed by Jaish Al Adl.
In May, five Iranian border guards died in clashes with an armed group in Saravan, southeast of Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan.
State media reported at the time that the attack was carried out by “a terrorist group that was seeking to infiltrate the country”, but its members “fled the scene after suffering injuries”.
Additional input from Saleem Shahid