Ilyas Kashmiri survived last month's airstrike in Pakistan


kashmiri.JPG

Ilyas Kashmiri, the leader of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and al Qaeda's Brigade 313.

A senior al Qaeda leader and longtime Pakistani jihadi with strong ties to Pakistan's military and intelligence services who was thought to have been killed in a US airstrike in the tribal areas has surfaced.

Ilyas Kashmiri, the operational chief of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and al Qaeda's Brigade 313, survived the Sept. 14 airstrike in the village of Turikhel near the town of Mir Ali in Taliban-controlled North Waziristan. Kashmiri was thought to have been killed with Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, an Uzbek terror group based in Pakistan's tribal areas. Pakistani and US intelligence officials were certain Kashmiri was killed in the attack.

Kashmiri was recently confirmed to be alive by Syed Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for the Asia Times. Kashmiri granted an interview to Shahzad, which will be published on Oct. 14. In the interview, Kashmiri "outlines al Qaeda's master plan to combat the US and its proxies."

Kashmiri is very likely to be directly linked to last weekend's terror assault on Pakistan's Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Dr. Usman, the tactical commander of the assault group, is a senior member of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and served under Kashmiri.

Ilyas Kashmiri is considered by US intelligence to be one of al Qaeda's most dangerous commanders. He served as the operational chief of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, 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.

Kashmiri is also a longtime asset of Pakistan's military and intelligence services. He served as a commando in the elite Special Services Group (SSG), Pakistan's special operations unit trained by Britain's Special Air Service. In the early 1990s, Kashmiri was ordered by the military to join the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, and later he was urged to join the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which he refused to do.

Kashmiri reportedly dropped out of favor with the military after refusing the military's suggestion to join Jaish-e-Mohammed. In 2003 he was arrested after being accused of involvement in the assassination attempts against then-President Musharraf, and was later released. After the 2007 Pakistani Army assault on the radical Lal Masjid in Islamabad, he set up camp in Ramzak in North Waziristan, and was joined by several Pakistani Army military officers. Kashmiri is widely thought to have maintained his links with the radical elements in Pakistan's military and intelligence services throughout his time operating with jihadi groups.

Kashmiri was behind the assassination of Major General Faisal Alvi, the retired commander of the SSG, in Rawalpindi in late 2008. Alvi was killed just months after sending a letter to General Kiyani. In the letter, Alvi accused two generals of forcing his retirement. According to The Times Online, Alvi said he was forced to retire after threatening to expose the two generals' involvement with the Taliban.



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READER COMMENTS: "Ilyas Kashmiri survived last month's airstrike in Pakistan"

Posted by Spooky at October 13, 2009 11:37 AM ET:

Well that sucks. Better luck next time?

Posted by Viliger at October 13, 2009 12:02 PM ET:

On the last line in the article
"Alvi said he was forced to retire after threatening to expose the two generals' involvement with the Taliban."

It'll be interesting to know who these two generals are, particularly in light of the attack on the Pak GHQ. Any sense of emabarassment here at all?

Makes one wonder if Kashmiri had a role to play here too given the past relationship with the army and "Dr" (the Christian Science Monitor says actually a nurse) Usama. And the unapproved plan to get Kiyani.

Posted by Bing at October 14, 2009 8:08 AM ET:

Correction in the article: according to Syed Saleem Shahzad at Asia Times, Ilyas Kashmiri was never a part of the Pakistani Army.

Posted by Bill Roggio at October 14, 2009 8:32 AM ET:

Bing, this isn't what other Pakistani reporters as well as my sources say. And the Pakistani military doesn't want this to be known as well.

Posted by Bing at October 14, 2009 8:59 AM ET:

Considering SS Shahzad is well connected in jihadist circles and actually met the guy recently, I do have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is not known to shill for the P-stan military.

All the other Pak reporters are copying from Hamid Mir's report it seems, and Mir himself has a checkered past when it comes to accuracy.

Posted by Bill Roggio at October 14, 2009 9:31 AM ET:

Shahzad has connections within Pakistan's military as well. The jihadis do not advertise their former military connections, and don't have a vested interest in doing so as they still use those connections to further their goals. I have no doubt Kashmiri and Shanhzad's military sources deny Kashmiri was in the SSG.

I have seen reports on Kashmiri in the SSG independent from Mir's report.And Mir is even better connected in jihadi circles than Shahzad.

Posted by Bing at October 14, 2009 1:05 PM ET:

Bill, I think you're underestimating Shahzad's deep connections to the jihadi circles. Mir used to be connected, but not so much now that he has gone mainstream with his political talk shows on Pak TV.

On the specific issue of Kashmiri being in the military or not, I guess it's a moot point.

Posted by Minnor at October 15, 2009 5:14 AM ET:

The article on The Asia Times look fake and fabricated. They have shown no images/video, nor more than one reporter was present.

Posted by Timo at October 20, 2009 12:58 PM ET:

Well, looks like the modern methods don't work very good. I prefer precise attacks.