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Pakistan Reader# 711, 17 January 2024

Iran attacks alleged terror bases in Pakistan



Jaish-al-Adl is a Sunni militant group established in 2012 and has been operating from Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province

Shamini Velayutham

What happened?
On 16 January, Iran launched attacks in Pakistan targeting the two bases of a militant group called Jaish-al-Adl. The attack was carried out in the border town of Panjgur in Balochistan. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Pakistan, two children were reportedly killed in the strikes and three girls were injured. Additionally, local reports from the area also suggested that a mosque was hit and damaged, injuring several people. Iran has, however, maintained that the strikes were only aimed at the bases of a Sunni militant group. Referring to the attacks, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency stated that “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.” It also confirmed the location stating that the “focal point of this operation was the region known as Kouh-Sabz (green mountain)” in Balochistan. According to The Guardian, both countries have “long had a tense relationship, in large part because of the activities of Balochi separatists and other militant groups in the border area.”
 
Who is Jaish al-Adl group?
Jaish-al-Adl is a Sunni militant group established in 2012 and has been operating from Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province. The group is said to be an offshoot of a designated terrorist organization called ‘Jundullah.’ According to Iran, Jaish-al-Adl is a proxy of Saudi Arabia. Iran has also had suspicions that Pakistan has provided safe haven to these insurgents and tried to de-stabilize Iran’s south-eastern border, most probably in cahoots with Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s arch rival. Separately, the office of the US Director of National Intelligence has stated that Jaish-al-Adl is the ‘most active and influential’ Sunni militant group operating in Sistan-Baluchistan.
 
Why did Iran target the Jaish al-Adl base?
Tehran asserts that the Jaish-al-Adl has hideouts across the border in Pakistan. The group has taken responsibility for several attacks against Iran’s security forces which include abduction. In February 2019, the group killed 27 security personnel, prompting Iranian civil and military leadership to issue warnings to Pakistan. The attack on the Jaish-al-Adl base comes a day after Iran’s drone attack in Iraq and Syria which was in retaliation to the Kerman bombings. A link between the attacks in Pakistan and the Kerman bombings seems unlikely.
 
 How has Pakistan responded?
The MoFA of Pakistan has strongly condemned the attack launched by Iran and called it an “illegal act.” Pakistan also contested claims that “terrorist hideouts” had been destroyed. The ministry called out the strike as an ‘unprovoked violation’ of its airspace and sovereignty. According to the press release by MoFA, “This violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is completely unacceptable and can have serious consequences.” The statement further stated that Pakistan’s condemnation is already been given to the concerned official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran in Tehran. Subsequently, Pakistan called the Iranian Charge d’affaires to MoFA to convey its condemnation of the unprecedented attack that had violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. The statement added, “Such unilateral acts are not in conformity with good neighborly relations and can seriously undermine bilateral trust and confidence.” Finally, the statement reiterated that Pakistan has always said terrorism is a threat in the region and insists on cooperation.
 
China responds
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning urged Pakistan and Iran to put a restraining order. She stated, “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.” She further added that China views both countries as ‘close neighbors’.
 
References
Saleem Shahid, “Iran ‘attacks militant bases in Panjgur,” Dawn, 17 January 2024
Kamran Yousaf, “Pakistan warns of ‘consequences’ after Iranian incursion,” The Express Tribune, 17 January 2024
Pakistan’s strong condemnation of the unprovoked violation of its air space,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Pakistan, 17 January 2024
Pakistan says children killed in Iranian strike,” BBC, 17 January 2024
Iran strikes ‘militant bases’ in Pakistan in latest Middle East flashpoint,” The Guardian, 17 January 2024

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