Media reports say Pakistan has launched retaliatory strikes against militants in Iran in response to attacks by Tehran that targeted sites within Pakistan’s borders, heightening fears of further instability across the Middle East and surrounding region.

A statement released by Pakistan’s foreign ministry on January 18 says Pakistan this morning “undertook a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts in Siestan-o-Baluchistan province of Iran. A number of terrorists were killed during the Intelligence-based operation – codenamed Marg Bar Sarmachar”.

“Over the last several years, in our engagements with Iran, Pakistan has consistently shared its serious concerns about the safe havens and sanctuaries enjoyed by Pakistani origin terrorists calling themselves Sarmachars on the ungoverned spaces inside Iran.  Pakistan also shared multiple dossiers with concrete evidence of the presence and activities of these terrorists.”

“However, because of lack of action on our serious concerns, these so-called Sarmachars continued to spill the blood of innocent Pakistanis with impunity. This morning’s action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large scale terrorist activities by these so called Sarmachars.

“This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats. The successful execution of this highly complex operation is also a testimony to the professionalism of the Pakistan Armed Forces. Pakistan will continue to take all necessary steps to preserve the safety and security of its people which is sacrosanct, inviolable and sacred.”

The statement says Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the sole objective of the act “was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest which is paramount and cannot be compromised.”   

Tehran said nine people, including seven women and children, were killed in those attacks.

IRNA reported yesterday that  Alireza Marhamati, deputy security and law enforcement officer of the Governor of Sistan and Baluchestan Province said on Thursday that the Pakistani army used three unmanned aerial vehicles in its overnight cross-border attack on the Iranian city of Saravan.

He added, “In these attacks, four residential houses were destroyed, and around 10 women and children were killed.”

The official emphasized that the casualties were Pakistani nationals and that an investigation is underway to determine how they had come to reside on the Iranian side of the border.

“The motive behind this attack is under examination, and the results will be announced shortly,” he emphasized

A statement released by the Iranian foreign ministry on Thursday, in particular, says, “The security of the people and the territorial integrity of the country are considered Iran's red lines.  Iran expects its friendly and brotherly neighbor, Pakistan, to adhere strongly to its commitments in preventing the establishment of bases and groups of armed terrorists on Pakistani soil.”

The statement emphasizes that the Islamic Republic of Iran differentiates between Pakistan's friendly and brotherly government and armed terrorists.  The Islamic Republic of Iran reportedly always adheres to its policy of good neighborliness and does not allow its enemies and terrorist allies to strain these relations.