At The Times of India, I took a look at the possibility of Ilyas Kashmiri’s taking control of al Qaeda, and profiled the terror leader [free registration is required to read the full article]. We’ve been discussing Kashmiri’s meteoric rise in al Qaeda for years. Whether he takes control of al Qaeda or not, his importance to the organization is clear:
Ilyas Kashmiri, the leader of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and al Qaeda’s Brigade 313.
While the US continues to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida is already planning to replace its founder and spiritual leader, the man who has been the face of global terrorism for nearly 20 years. Filling bin Laden’s shoes will be no easy task; he has served as an inspiration for jihadists across the globe; and with deep connections in the Gulf, he has been able to keep the money flowing into al-Qaida’s coffers.
The most obvious choice to replace bin Laden is Ayman al Zawahiri, the Egyptian terror leader who has been at bin Laden’s side from the beginning, and whose followers make up the backbone of al-Qaida’s core leadership. Other possible successors include Saif al Adel, al-Qaida’s chief strategist and operational planner; Abu Yahya al Libi, a top ideologue who escaped from Bagram prison in Afghanistan in 2005 and has taunted the US ever since; and Sa’ad bin Laden, one of Osama’s sons who has been groomed to replace his father.
But one name is absent in the discussion of potential heirs to bin Laden’s throne: Ilyas Kashmiri, the notorious Pakistani terrorist who cut his teeth fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, and then waged terror attacks in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir as a commander in the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), where he formed Brigade 313. He has since risen to the top tier of al-Qaida’s leadership cadre as an experienced and dangerous military commander who directs attacks in South Asia while also aiding terror attacks against the West.
Kashmiri is considered by US intelligence to be one of al-Qaida’s most effective commanders. He serves as the operational chief of HUJI, an al-Qaida-linked terror group that operates in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. HUJI was designated as a terrorist entity by the US in 2010, and Kashmiri was added to the list of global terrorists for his role in leading the group as well as for his links to al-Qaida.