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False claim about 16 Jan attack in Pakistan attributed to Iran’s foreign minister

Authentic interview of Iran’s foreign minister presented in a misleading context

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Claim: Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said the 16 January attacks in Pakistan’s Balochistan province were carried out with the knowledge of the Government of Pakistan and in collaboration with Pakistan’s armed forces.

Fact: The claim is false. Neither did Iran’s Foreign Minister say that the attack in Balochistan on 16 January was carried out after speaking to the government of Pakistan, nor did he state that there was any collaboration between Iran and Pakistan’s armed forces regarding the attack.

On 17 January 2024, X (formerly Twitter) user @keyboardjungjo shared (archive) a video of an interview of Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, with the following caption:

“ایرانی وزیر خارجہ کا بیان لازمی شئیر کریں تا کہ پروپیگنڈہ مشینری ناکام رہے۔۔۔ حکومت سے بات کر کے حملہ کیا گیا۔۔۔ سنتے جاۓ اور سمجھ جاۓ الیکشن نھیں ہونے ہونے
[Must share the Iranian foreign minister’s statement so that the propaganda machine fails. The attack [in Balochistan] was carried out after speaking to the government [of Pakistan]. Listen and understand that there will be no election]”

Fact or Fiction?

This article is not fact-checking if the Pakistani government or armed forces were aware of the attack by Iran, only if Iran’s foreign minister stated as such or not.

Soch Fact Check identified the logo on the bottom-right corner as that of the Iranian channel, Students News Network, as it mentions SNN TV, alongside Persian text, “خبرگزاری دانشجو [Student News Agency].” We found that the clip, aired on 17 January 2024, was posted on X on the same day here (archive) with the following English caption:

“#BREAKING: #Iran’s FM in World Economic Forum. ‘As for #Pakistan, none of the citizens of our brotherly neighboring country Pakistan were targeted by #Iran. the #Iranian terrorist group Jaish al-Adl, taking refuge in parts of Pakistan’s Balochistan province was attacked’”

Amir-Abdollahian made the comments during the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting that took place 15-19 January 2024 in Davos-Klosters in Switzerland.

Soch Fact Check also found that the Urdu text with a yellow background in the video posted by @keyboardjungjo has been superimposed on the original Persian news ticker — “گفتگوی امیرعبداللهیان در اجلاس داووس ۲۰۲۴ [Amir-Abdollahian’s conversation at the 2024 Davos Summit]” — appearing in the SNN TV clip. The superimposed text makes it impossible to see what was run in SNN TV’s original clip.

The English captions in the SNN TV clip are as follows:

“As for Pakistan, none of the citizens of our friendly and brotherly neighbouring country Pakistan were targeted by Iran’s drones and missiles. A group known as Jaish al-Adl, which is an Iranian terrorist group, has taken refuge in parts of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. And we discussed it many times with high-ranking Pakistani military security and political officials. They carried out operations in Iran in the past days, including martyring our police forces at Rask checkpoint. Our answer is on Iranian terrorists inside Pakistan. Before this conversation, I had a conversation with my colleague, the Honourable Foreign Minister of Pakistan.”

However, the SNN TV clip only contains part of the foreign minister’s complete response. Soch Fact Check also watched the original interview (archive) — conducted by CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria — posted on the YouTube channel of the World Economic Forum. The interview was streamed live on 17 January, a day after the attacks in Balochistan.

Amir-Abdollahian said Iran targeted the Iranian terrorist group Jaish al-Adl, not Pakistani nationals. He said he has spoken to Pakistani officials in the past, as well as how Jaish al-Adl carried out attacks in Iran, “especially in the Rask police station”.

The Iranian FM said he talked to his Pakistani counterpart “before this”, referring to his phone call to Pakistan’s Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani acknowledged here (archive) and indicating that this conversation occurred in the aftermath of the 16 January attack.

The following is a transcript of Amir-Abdollahian’s complete answer, starting at the 11:19 mark, in response to Zakaria’s question on the Pakistan attacks:

“On [the topic of] Pakistan, none of the nationals of the friendly and brotherly country of Pakistan were targeted by the missiles and the drones of Iran. There is this group, the so-called group, Jaish al-Adl, which is an Iranian terrorist group and they have, somehow, they have taken shelter in some parts of the Sistan-Baluchestan province of Pakistan. For several times, we have talked to a lot of officials in Pakistan and the security forces there. They [Jaish al-Adl] carried out some operations in Iran, especially in the Rask police station, they killed our security personnel [and] we responded accordingly. We only targeted Iranian terrorists on the soil of Pakistan. Before this, I talked to my colleague, the honourable foreign minister of Pakistan, and I assured him that we do respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Pakistan — also those of Iraq — but we don’t allow our national security to be compromised and to be played with and we have no reservation, no hesitation, when it comes to our national interest and those terrorist groups inside Pakistan and those that are affiliated to the Israeli regime and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. What we did was actually in line with the security of Pakistan, Iraq, and the whole region. We believe that the security of Iraq and Pakistan are the security of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The discussions and conversations with “officials in Pakistan and the security forces” that the Iranian foreign minister talked about were likely a reference to the talks — such as those mentioned here, here, here, and here — following the Rask attack in December 2023.

The news reports — found on Reuters (archive) and Anadolu Agency (archive) which cited a telephone conversation between Jilani and his Iranian counterpart, Amir-Abdollahian — do not mention that they spoke of any prior intimation from Iran or a collaboration between Iran and Pakistan’s armed forces pertaining to a strike like the one on 16 January.

Amir-Abdollahian also posted (archive) about his telephone conversation with Jilani on X that took place on 18 January 2024, in the aftermath of Iran’s attack on Balochistan. The Foreign Minister’s tweet does not contain any declaration that Iran had informed Pakistan of the 16 January attacks prior to the event or that the attack was carried out in collaboration with Pakistan’s armed forces.

In fact, reports by Iranian media outlets such as Mehr News Agency (archive) and Press TV (archive) also mentioned the exchange of remarks after the attacks, not before.

Pakistan-Iran tensions

Pakistan struck a “number of terrorists” in the Sistan-Baluchestan province of Iran during an operation named Marg Bar Sarmachar, the Foreign Office said (archive) on 18 January 2024, with media in Tehran saying “at least nine people, including four children”, were killed, according to Reuters (archive).

The publication quoted Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying he received information that the “four children, three women, and two men” who were killed were “foreign nationals”.

Pakistan used “killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions, and stand-off weapons” in the operation, according (archive) to its military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). “Hideouts used by terrorist organisations namely Balochistan Liberation Army [BLA] and Balochistan Liberation Front [BLF] were successfully struck,” the press release added.

On 17 January, China urged both Pakistan and Iran to “exercise restraint”, The Express Tribune reported (archive), citing foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

Prior to that, in the early hours of 16 January, Iran launched (archive) an attack on Pakistan’s Balochistan province, allegedly against members of Jaish al-Adl, or the Army of Justice, a terrorist group based in the Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Pakistan reacted strongly to Iran’s attack, terming it “unprovoked”, “illegal”, and “completely unacceptable”. It said (archive) the strike resulted in civilian casualties, including the “death of two innocent children” and three girls being injured.

Iran denied Pakistan’s claim, saying (archive), “We only targeted Iranian terrorists on the soil of Pakistan.”

Pakistan also recalled its ambassador from Iran, advised the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan “not [to] return for the time being”, and suspended all high-level visits, according to the Foreign Office (archive).

The Foreign Office “did not mention the location of the incident” but, according to the Iranian state media, “the attack took place in the border town of Panjgur in Balochistan”, Dawn reported (archive).

The strike came a day after Iran launched similar attacks (archive) in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh. Its rationale was that it went after the terrorists responsible for the 3 January 2024 twin bomb blasts — which left 84 people dead and were claimed (archive) by the IS — in the Iranian city of Kerman.

Four days after the exchange of strikes, the two countries decided (archive) to “de-escalate the situation”, with a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) — chaired by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar — concluding (archive) that Pakistan and Iran “would mutually be able to overcome minor irritants through dialogue and diplomacy and pave the way to further deepen their historic relations”.

The two countries’ respective ambassadors “may return to their respective posts by 26 January 2024”, a joint press release issued 22 January says.

Virality

The X post by @keyboardjungjo has garnered over 49,200 views as of writing time.

We also found another X post (archive) — by @ShahzadGill202, an account who has made a false claim in the past as well — that has more than 299,300 views.

Soch Fact Check found the video was shared falsely here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here on Facebook. It was also shared as a Reel here, here, and here.

Conclusion: The claim that Iran’s Foreign Minister declared that the 16 January attack in Balochistan was carried out after intimating the government of Pakistan or that the attack was carried out in collaboration with Pakistan’s armed forces is a misleading interpretation of the Foreign Minister’s remarks.


Background image in cover photo: The Artist Studio


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