By Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam
ISLAMABAD, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Pakistan conducted strikes inside Iran on Thursday, targeting separatist militants, the Pakistani foreign ministry said, two days after Tehran said it attacked Israel-linked militant bases inside Pakistani territory.
Iranian media said several missiles hit a village in the Sistan-Baluchistan province that borders Pakistan, killing three women and four children, all non-Iranians.
“A number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” the Pakistani ministry said in a statement, describing it as a “series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts”.
It added, “Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest, which is paramount and cannot be compromised.”
A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters the strikes were carried out by military aircraft.
“Our forces have conducted strikes to target Baloch militants inside Iran,” the intelligence official in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, said.
“The targeted militants belong to BLF,” he added, referring to the Balochistan Liberation Front, which seeks independence for Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Iran said on Tuesday it had targeted Israel-linked militant bases inside Pakistan. Pakistan said civilians had been hit and two children killed, warning of consequences for which Tehran would be responsible.
Islamabad recalled its ambassador from Iran on Wednesday.
Pakistan and Iran have in the past had rocky relations, but the strikes are the highest-profile cross-border intrusion in recent years.