Banner for the Al Qaeda 313 Brigade website/forum. Pictured, from left to right, are Mustafa Abu Yazid, Abu Yahya al Libi, and Ilyas Kashmiri.
A website connected to al Qaeda’s military arm in Pakistan has sprung up on the Internet in the past month. The website, called Al Qaeda Brigade 313, at www.aqbrigade313.com, was registered on June 2, 2010, and became active in early July.
The site has 86 registered users and five administrators, according to a report at the Open Source Center that was obtained by The Long War Journal. The website contains a forum and a blog, and posts links to Taliban propaganda, including a statement by failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
Several authorities, including US intelligence officials and an expert on terrorist websites, all of whom wish to remain anonymous, said that the Al Qaeda Brigade 313 website appears to be legitimate and may be directly associated with al Qaeda.
The Brigade 313 website’s landing page has the words “Al Qaeda Brigade 313″ in the center, while text describing Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan occupies the four corners of the page.
Once inside the Al Qaeda Brigade 313, a banner appears with images of slain al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Yazid and ideologue Abu Yahya al Libi on the left, and an image of Ilyas Kashmiri on the far right [see banner above]. Yazid was al Qaeda’s leader in the Khorasan, which includes Pakistan and Afghanistan, before he was killed in a US Predator strike in North Waziristan in May 2010.
Brigade 313 is al Qaeda’s military organization in Pakistan, and is made up of Taliban and allied jihadist groups. Members of Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundallah (the Karachi-based, al Qaeda-linked group), and several other Pakistani terror groups are known to have merged with al Qaeda in Pakistan, and the group operates 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 intelligence 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. The unit has also been involved in the rash of attacks on Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, including the assault and siege of the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in December 2009.
Brigade 313 is led by Ilyas Kashmiri, who is also the leader of the Lashkar al Zil or the Shadow Army, al Qaeda’s military organization along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Kashmiri is suspected of planning and leading some of the terror group’s most sophisticated assaults in the Afghan-Pakistan theater. He also has been implicated in the failed 2009 plot by Najibullah Zazi to carry out suicide attacks on New York City’s subways.
The Lashkar al Zil is also known at the Jaish al Usrah, or the Army of the Protective Shield. The Lashkar al Zil operates six brigades in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, including Brigade 055, al Qaeda’s original military formation, which was created during the rule of the Taliban in the 1990s. Abu Laith al Libi was the leader of Brigade 055, another al Qaeda military formation based in Afghanistan, before he was killed in a Predator airstrike in North Waziristan in January 2008.
The Lashkar al Zil is also thought to operate other formations in Somalia and Yemen. The US killed the previous commander of the Lashkar al Zil, Abdullah Said al Libi, during a Predator airstrike in North Waziristan in December 2009.
Brigade 313 is named after the 313 companions who fought with Mohammed during the Battle of Badr.
Background on Ilyas 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 Harkat-ul-Jihad-alIslami, 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 now serving as the “acting chairman of the military committee as Saif al Adel has moved up the ranks,” a senior official told The Long War Journal in 2009. Saif al Adel, who is thought to be based in Iran, served as al Qaeda’s version of the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as a top strategist.
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 2009, the military intelligence official said.
In 2008, Kashmiri reportedly drafted a plan to assassinate General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s top military officer, but the plan was canceled by al Qaeda’s senior leadership, according to a report in the Asia Times.
Although he is currently listed as a most wanted terrorist by the Pakistani government, 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 Kayani. 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.
Kashmiri is on the record as swearing allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar as far back as 1999.
“[W]e folks have taken oath from Mullah Omar and we consider him as Ameerul Momineen [the leader of the faithful],” Kashmiri told a Pakistani reporter a decade ago. “We have absolute permission from him to go to any place and engage ourselves in jihadi activities.”
• Pakistan-Focused Website of Al-Qa’ida Brigade 313, Open Source Center
• Al-Qaeda keeps its eyes on Afghanistan, Asia Times
• Top al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Yazid confirmed killed in airstrike in North Waziristan, The Long War Journal
• US killed al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil commander in airstrike, The Long War Journal
• Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi killed in North Waziristan, The Long War Journal
• US spies walked into al-Qaeda’s trap, Asia Times
• Ilyas Kashmiri was a Pakistani Army commando, Threat Matrix
• Pakistani commandos break siege on Army headquarters, The Long War Journal
• Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army’, The Long War Journal
• Al Qaeda’s Shadow Army commander outlines Afghan strategy, The Long War Journal
• Pakistan’s most-wanted: look at who isn’t listed, Threat Matrix
• Kashmiri, Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives aided 2 Americans in foiled Danish terror plot, The Long War Journal
• Pakistani police capture al Qaeda’s Karachi commander, The Long War Journal
• Ilyas Kashmiri, then and now, Threat Matrix
• UK may help find Pakistani general’s killers, The Times Onine