Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran

Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran
The IRGC have launched missile attacks on multiple “terrorist” targets in Syria and in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, Iranian state media reported on January 16. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2024
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Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran

Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan conducted strikes inside Iran on Thursday, targeting separatist Baloch militants, its foreign ministry said, two days after Tehran said it had attacked the bases of another group within Pakistani territory.
The neighbors have had rocky relations in the past, but the strikes are the highest-profile cross-border intrusion in recent years, for which Tehran has demanded an explanation, the semi-official Tasnim news agency said.
The Iran-Pakistan exchange deepens worries about instability across the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas started on Oct. 7, with Iran’s allies also entering the fray from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar will cut short a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos and return home, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Earlier, Iranian media said several missiles hit a village in the Sistan-Baluchestan province that borders Pakistan, killing three women and four children, all non-Iranians.
“A number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, describing it as a “series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts.”
“Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the ministry added in its statement.
“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.”
Tehran has asked Islamabad for an explanation about the strikes, Iran’s Tasnim news agency said, citing an unidentified official. Pakistan’s charge’d affaires, its most senior diplomat in Tehran, has been summoned, Iranian media said.
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,” said the official in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
“The targeted militants belong to BLF,” he added, referring to the Baloch Liberation Front, which seeks independence for Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Iran said on Tuesday it had hit Israel-linked militant bases inside Pakistan. Both targeted groups are ethnically Baloch, but it was not clear if they co-operate.
Nuclear-armed 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 in protest against what it called a “blatant breach” of its sovereignty.
Escalation fears
Iran had been flexing its muscles in the region, even before its cross-border incursion into Pakistan.
It launched strikes on Syria against what Tehran said were Islamic State sites and Iraq, where it said it had struck an Israeli espionage center. Baghdad recalled its ambassador from Tehran.
The neighbors had appeared to be improving ties, with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Pakistan’s Kakar meeting at Davos this week, before the Iranian strikes on Pakistan.
Pakistan’s comments after its retaliatory strikes signal a desire to keep the row contained, but analysts warned it could get out of hand.
“Iran’s motivation for attacking Pakistan remains opaque but in light of broader Iranian behavior in the region it can escalate,” Asfandyr Mir, a senior expert on South Asia security at the US Institute of Peace, told Reuters.
“What will cause anxiety in Tehran is that Pakistan has crossed a line by hitting inside Iranian territory, a threshold that even the US and Israel have been careful to not breach.”
Khwaja Asif, Pakistan’s defense minister until August, said the action was retaliatory.
“A measured response has been given and it was important,” he told Geo TV. “There should be ongoing efforts on the side that this doesn’t escalate.”
Both targeted militant groups operate in an area that includes Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan and Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. Both are restive, mineral-rich and largely underdeveloped.
The BLF, which Islamabad targeted inside Iran, is waging an armed insurgency against the Pakistani state.
This includes hitting Chinese citizens and investments in Balochistan, which is Pakistan’s largest province by land mass, but its least populated and developed. Large portions are lawless.
The Jaish al Adl (JAA), which Iran targeted, is also an ethnic militant group, but with Sunni Islamist leanings that primarily Shiite Iran sees as a threat.
The group has carried out attacks in Iran against its powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In its previous incarnation as Jundallah, the group had pledged allegiance to Iraq- and Syria-based jihadist group Daesh.


British TV presenter under fire for ‘Islamophobic’ tweet in aftermath of Sydney mall attack

British TV presenter under fire for ‘Islamophobic’ tweet in aftermath of Sydney mall attack
Updated 1 min 16 sec ago
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British TV presenter under fire for ‘Islamophobic’ tweet in aftermath of Sydney mall attack

British TV presenter under fire for ‘Islamophobic’ tweet in aftermath of Sydney mall attack
  • Critics say Rachel Riley should be sacked after she draws parallel between calls for Palestinian intifada and unrelated attack in Australia that left 6 people dead
  • The ‘Countdown’ star later clarifies her comments and says she apologizes if her message was ‘misunderstood’

LONDON: British TV presenter Rachel Riley has responded to criticisms she received after posting a message on social media platform X in which she appeared to link a stabbing rampage at a Sydney shopping mall on Saturday, which left six people dead, with ongoing protests calling for a Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising.

The celebrity, best known for appearing on the Channel 4 game shows “Countdown” and “8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown” said she apologized if her words had been “misunderstood.”

In a message posted soon after the attacks, Riley, whose mother is Jewish, wrote: “For six months now, people have been out on our streets proudly calling for the ‘Intifada Revolution’. If you want to know what ‘Globalised Intifada’ looks like, see the Sydney Mall.”

She immediately faced a backlash, including accusations of racism and Islamophobia and calls for her to be sacked by Channel 4.

In response, she posted a message on Sunday in which she said her tweet was not intended to link the attack in Sydney to Islamic extremism, but rather to question the continuing tolerance for protests in London and around the world calling for “intifada,” which she equates with “violence on our streets.”

She wrote: “Sadly, the type of attack seen in Sydney yesterday is exactly the kind of violence the previous intifada involved and I hope to avoid in future, but in my opinion ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

“Attacks on Jews have recently become repackaged as ‘resistance’ in some circles, and we should in one voice condemn all acts of violence, whoever the perpetrators and whoever the victims.

“I am sorry if this message was misunderstood, that was not my intention.”

Despite her clarification, she continued to face criticism online, including accusations that her response was “insufficient” and she was engaging in “self-centered self-victimization” in an attempt to evade responsibility.

On Saturday, Joel Cauchi attacked a number of people, mostly women, at the Westfield Bondi Junction mall killing five women and a man. Several others, including a baby girl, were injured before Cauchi was shot dead by police. Australian authorities have said the attack was not related to terrorism and most likely linked to the attacker’s mental health issues.


Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran
Updated 2 min 19 sec ago
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Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran
  • Former PM says ‘Jewish terrorist violence’ against Palestinians in West Bank was ‘out of control’ under Netanyahu
  • Israeli settlers torched Palestinian homes, cars over weekend in West Bank, where violence has soared since Oct. 7

JERUSALEM: Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of leading to a “total loss of Israeli deterrence” in the wake of an unprecedented Iranian attack.
In a scathing criticism posted on X, former premier Lapid also said that under Netanyahu, “Jewish terrorist violence” against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was “out of control.”
Netanyahu, who returned to power in late 2022 at the helm of a coalition with far-right parties, has brought “heaps of destruction from Beeri to Kiryat Shmona,” Lapid said, calling for early elections.
Beeri, a kibbutz community near the Gaza border, came under attack when Hamas militants stormed the area on October 7, triggering the ongoing war, while the northern town of Kiryat Shmona has suffered during months of cross-border fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Lapid’s remarks came two days after Iran — which backs both Hamas and Hezbollah — launched more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel in retaliation for a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.
Israel, the United States and other allies intercepted nearly all launches in the late Saturday aerial attack — the first direct Iranian military action against arch foe Israel.
Netanyahu’s cabinet has weighed Israel’s response to the Iranian attack, but the prime minister has not made any public comments.
In the West Bank, where violence has soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Israeli settlers torched Palestinian homes and cars over the weekend, killing at least two people, after an Israeli teen was “murdered in a suspected terrorist attack,” according to the Israeli military.
Pointing to surging “terrorist” settler attacks, Lapid said: “If we don’t move this government, it will bring destruction upon us.”
The government, which includes hard-line settlers, has prioritized Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.
Netanyahu has faced in recent months mass protests over the fate of hostages held in Gaza and pressure from a resurgent anti-government movement.
The prime minister’s Likud party responded to Lapid in a statement stressing Netanyahu’s part in “the global campaign” to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons — which Tehran denies it is seeking.


Finance minister discusses investment plans with US-Pakistani businessmen in Washington 

Finance minister discusses investment plans with US-Pakistani businessmen in Washington 
Updated 5 min 36 sec ago
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Finance minister discusses investment plans with US-Pakistani businessmen in Washington 

Finance minister discusses investment plans with US-Pakistani businessmen in Washington 
  • Muhammad Aurangzeb arrived in the US on Sunday to participate in spring meetings of the IMF, World Bank
  • Pakistan is in need of external financing to shore up forex reserves to escape another macroeconomic crisis

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb on Monday met with a delegation from the US-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC) in Washington D.C. and discussed with them his government’s commitment to improving business climate in Pakistan.

Aurangzeb arrived in Washington D.C. on Sunday to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, amid Islamabad’s efforts to reach an agreement with the IMF for a new loan program by June this year.

The South Asian country of more than 240 million people remains in desperate need of external financing to shore up its foreign exchange reserves and escape yet another macroeconomic crisis after it barely averted a default last year, thanks to a $3 billion IMF program.

In order to overcome the present economic woes, Islamabad has been making efforts to attract foreign direct investment to keep the $350 billion economy afloat.

“During the meeting, the Finance Minister highlighted the government’s dedication to attracting both foreign and domestic investments in key sectors,” Aurangzeb’s ministry said in a statement. “These sectors include agriculture, IT, mines & minerals, and energy.”

Pakistan's Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Muhammad Aurangzeb (5L), meets with a delegation from the US Pakistan Business Council in Washington, US, on April 15, 2024. (Pakistan Finance Ministry)

The statement came days after Aurangzeb met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to discuss Pakistan’s economic strategy ahead of his meetings with IMF and World Bank officials.

“He discussed with the prime minister his scheduled meetings with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other organizations during the visit,” the Pakistani finance ministry said. “The overall economic situation of the country was also discussed in the meeting.”

Pakistan this month completed a final review of its current $3 billion IMF deal that cleared the way for the disbursement of a final tranche of nearly $1.1 billion. The South Asian country is now looking for another bailout program.

Last week, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva confirmed Pakistan was in discussions with her organization on a potential follow-up loan program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement (SBA).

The IMF chief recognized Pakistan’s commitment to structural economic reforms during an event at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. She, however, noted that some important issues, including the tax base and overall economic transparency, were yet to be addressed by Pakistani authorities.


Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint

Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint
Updated 3 min 51 sec ago
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Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint

Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint
  • “The government of Iraq is warning about escalation in the area to be dragged into a wider war," Tamim says

WASHINGTON: Iraq called on all parties to show restraint amid soaring tensions between neighboring Iran and Israel, Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim said on Monday as he met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The government of Iraq is warning about escalation in the area to be dragged into a wider war that will threaten international security and safety,” he said at the start of a meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee in Washington.
“And therefore we call on all parties for self restraint and respect the rules of diplomatic works and also international laws.”


Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren

Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren
Updated 15 min 59 sec ago
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Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren

Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren
  • Civil defense officials gave the death toll for the rains, which saw Oman’s North Al Sharqiyah province hardest hit
  • Heavy rains also were expected over Dubai in the neighboring UAE and other regions of the Arabian Peninsula

DUBAI: Heavy rainfall caused flash flooding in Oman on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, killing at least 17 people as rescuers searched for survivors, authorities said Monday. In one incident, a group of school children and a driver died when their vehicle was overtaken, authorities said.
Heavy rains also were expected over Dubai in the neighboring United Arab Emirates and other regions of the Arabian Peninsula.
Civil defense officials gave the death toll for the rains, which saw Oman’s North Al Sharqiyah province hardest hit. The Royal Oman Police and the Omani military deployed to the province to transport citizens out of flooded areas, Oman News Agency reported.
Heavy rainfall often causes flash flooding in the sultanate, drawing the curious from their homes to nearby dry riverbeds, known in Arabic as “wadi.” In flooding, they can quickly fill and wash away people and vehicles.
In Dubai, authorities expected heavy rains to begin Monday night and last into Tuesday morning. The Emirates’ National Center of Meteorology warned of thunder, lightning, rain and possibly hail, with winds reaching up to 70 kph (43 mph). Government schools announced they would hold classes remotely Tuesday and Wednesday.