Two senior al Qaeda leaders are among those thought to have been killed in the Sept. 8 Predator strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Ilyas Kashmiri and Mustafa al Jaziri may have been killed during the strike in the village of Machi Khel near Mir Ali. Unmanned US strike aircraft are reported to have hit a car and a madrassa in the attack, The News reported.
Initially five Uzbeks from the Islamic Jihad Group were thought to have been killed, but the report was revised to state that two Arab al Qaeda members, three Punjabi jihadis, and two or three local Taliban fighters were killed.
Mustafa al Jaziri is a senior military commander for al Qaeda. “Jaziri sits on al Qaeda’s military shura [council],” a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “He is an important and effective leader.” Jaziri is an Algerian national.
Ilyas Kashmiri is “one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous commanders” the official said. He is the operational commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), an al Qaeda-linked terror group that operates in Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Kashmiri was recently listed as the fourth most wanted terrorist by Pakistan’s Interior Ministry.
Kashmiri is thought to have played a major role in the multi-pronged suicide attack against government and security installations in the eastern Afghan province of Khost in May, the military intelligence official said.
Last year, Kashmiri reportedly drafted a plan to assassinate General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, Pakistan’s top military officer, but the plan was canceled by al Qaeda’s senior leadership, according to a report in the Asia Times.
Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and several other Pakistani terror groups have merged with al Qaeda in Pakistan, and operate under the name of Brigade 313. This group is interlinked with Pakistan’s Taliban and also recruits senior members of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, a senior US official told The Long War Journal.
Brigade 313 has been behind many of the high-profile attacks and bombings inside Pakistan, including multiple assassination attempts against former President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Gilani. Brigade 313 is one of the six known units in the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army.
“If we got Kashmiri, this would be the most successful strike against al Qaeda this year,” the official said. Kashmiri’s death would be on par with that of Osama al Kini, al Qaeda’s operational leader in Pakistan, who was killed during a New Years Day airstrike, the official noted.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would neither confirm nor deny that Kashmiri and Jaziri had been killed in the airstrike.