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Pakistan carried out airstrikes inside Iran — targeting militant positions


Amid the Israel-Hamas war that's gone on more than 100 days, another conflict is emerging.


MUMTAZ ZAHRA BALOCH: Pakistan undertook a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts in Iran.


That's Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman announcing this morning that her country's military has struck Iran. Iranian media report nine people were killed, and it comes after Iran this week struck sites in Pakistan and Iraq.

FADEL: On the line to help us understand what's going on is NPR's Diaa Hadid. She covers South Asia, including Pakistan, from her base in Mumbai. Hi Diaa.


FADEL: OK, so set the scene for us first here. What happened, exactly?

HADID: Well, Pakistan says it carried out airstrikes inside Iran that targeted hideouts of militants which it accuses of conducting cross-border attacks. And that came after Iran conducted its own surprise attacks inside Pakistan. Local media reports that, in one of those strikes, a mud hut was hit, killing a child and a baby. Now this is all taking place in an area called Balochistan. It's vast, and it straddles Pakistan and Iran. It's rugged, porous and impoverished. And it's long been a space where militants, separatists and smugglers have thrived, and they've used it as a redoubt to attack both countries. So even in the past, Iran has conducted small ground incursions into Pakistani Balochistan in pursuit of militants.

FADEL: OK. So you're describing cross-border incursions that have happened before. So what's different about what's happening right now?

HADID: This kind of escalation is rare, according to analysts I've spoken to, like Mosharraf Zaidi. He's a columnist and a director of a think tank in Islamabad. And he spoke to me from a flight, so you can hear some whooshing noise.

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI: The scale of what Iran did was unprecedented. And certainly, Pakistan's response and the nature of it, the speed of it and the size of it are also, to my memory, unprecedented.

HADID: And amid these tensions, Pakistan expelled the Iranian ambassador. The prime minister and the Pakistani foreign minister have both cut overseas trips, and they're coming home.

FADEL: So it's unprecedented. It sounds like it's escalating, at least diplomatically. And it comes at a time of uncertainty. The war between Israel and Hamas has now gone on for more than 100 days, as I mentioned. Are these hostilities related at all? Is that conflict turning into something bigger?

HADID: Well, it may be connected in the sense that Iran appears to be concerned. It's accused of playing a role in the current war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza through proxy groups that are accused of attacking Israeli and American interests in the region. And amid that conflict, there was an attack claimed by the Islamic State in Iran that killed over 90 people earlier this month. So Iran might feel that it needs to reassert its dominance and authority in the region.

FADEL: So what's next? Is there a sense that these tensions between Pakistan and Iran could escalate further?

HADID: Well, there does seem to be some probing for a way out. China, which is an ally of both countries, is offering to help defuse tensions. Will it work, though? The mood in Pakistan is of surprise and anger. And the AP reports Iran's military will also begin, today, a planned air defense drill from a seaport near Pakistan, and that might also add to tensions.

FADEL: That's NPR's Diaa Hadid. Thank you, Diaa.

HADID: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.