US intel believes Kashmiri killed in June Predator strike


kashmiri.JPG

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

US intelligence officials now believe that a top Pakistani al Qaeda military commander was killed in a Predator strike in South Waziristan that took place early last month.

Ilyas Kashmiri, one of al Qaeda's most dangerous military commanders and strategists, is now thought to have been killed in the June 3, 2011 Predator airstrike that leveled a compound in the Wana area of South Waziristan, an unnamed US official told Reuters.

"US agencies had confirmed to their satisfaction that Kashmiri is dead," the news service reported today. "The official declined to elaborate on what kind of evidence the United States had acquired confirming his demise."

Kashmiri's death has yet to be confirmed by al Qaeda or the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, the Pakistani terror group that Kashmiri commanded.

Pakistani intelligence officials and the Pakistani press were quick to announce Kashmiri's death, reporting it immediately after the June 3 strike that had occurred in an area under the control of Taliban commander Mullah Nazir, a favorite of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment.

Within a day of Kashmiri's reported death, several local Taliban leaders, including Mullah Nazir's spokesman, another HUJI leader named Qari Mohammad Idrees, and the Political Agent for South Waziristan, all claimed that Kashmiri had been killed.

But reports of Kashmiri's death were cast into doubt when a person who claimed he was a spokesman for the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam (or HUJI), said that Kashmiri was indeed killed. Abu Hanzla Kashir, the spokesman, signed a statement claiming Kashmiri had been killed. Kashir's account from the self-proclaimed HUJI spokesman was immediately called into question when discrepancies in the statement were identified. In addition, a photo that was released with the statement and purported to be that of Kashmiri's corpse turned out to be instead a photo of the corpse of a member of the November 2008 Mumbai suicide assault team.

If the reports of his death are confirmed, Kashmiri would be the third top al Qaeda leader killed this year, and the second killed by covert US forces in Pakistan. On May 2, a US special operations team killed Osama bin Laden, the founder and overall leader, during a raid on his safe house in the city of Abbottabad. Also, on June 8, Somali troops killed Fazul Abullah Mohammed, the leader of al Qaeda in East Africa.

Kashmiri is one of the most hunted al Qaeda leaders in the Afghan-Pakistan border area. He leads al Qaeda military forces in the region, and is one of three members of al Qaeda's external operations council, which is assigned to directing attacks against the US and Western allies. He has been implicated in attacks and assassinations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, as well as in plots against the West.

For more information on Ilyas Kashmiri, the initial report of his death, and the discredited HUJI statement, see LWJ reports, Top al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri killed in US Predator strike and Questions emerge over HUJI's statement on al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri's death.



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READER COMMENTS: "US intel believes Kashmiri killed in June Predator strike"

Posted by Neo at July 7, 2011 7:04 PM ET:

They are getting quite a few high value targets, the level of penetration must be very high. You certainly aren’t going to get real time information about this many leadership figures by remote observation and a few tip-offs alone. It has gotten to the point were if more than a few people in the ISI knows were someone is, than we also know. Just because much of the Pakistani security establishment are hostile to the United States doesn’t mean many haven’t grown cynical about the aims of the Taliban as well. A little cash often helps too.

Posted by Zulu1 at July 8, 2011 8:25 AM ET:

It all seems true this time then. But still those strange things right after the reaper-hit makes one cautious. Strangely it would be assuring to get a confirmation from AQ, and not the HUJI-spokesman unheard of before. Remember everyone thought he was hit before and then resurfaced many months later.

But of course it all depends on how strong the intel is signaling his death. Maybe there won't be any euologies from the militant camp. I can't remember hearing of any after the death of Qari Hussein Mehsud.

Posted by Bill Roggio at July 8, 2011 8:37 AM ET:

Zulu1,

We've never had confirmation that Qari Hussain Mehsud was killed (and in fact the Taliban have denied this). We have to be careful, remember the Hakeemullah Mehsud fiasco last year; even the US government touted him as being dead until he resurfaced with the Times Square bombing (in fact we here at LWJ were the only ones reporting he was in fact alive).

The short answer on Kashmiri is I don't know. US intel's perspective lends more weight to reports he is dead, but US intel is certainly not infallible (see Hakeemullah above for example). My sources remain agnostic on Kashmiri's status, FWIW.

Posted by KaneKaizer at July 8, 2011 12:49 PM ET:

Not only that Bill, but when Baitullah was killed in 2009 US intel thought he was still alive until Hakeemullah confirmed it, IIRC. Very difficult to find out unless you're in possession of the body.

Posted by dich vu seo at July 9, 2011 8:55 AM ET:

Kashmiri's death has yet to be confirmed by al Qaeda or the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, the Pakistani terror group that Kashmiri commanded.

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Has yet to be confirmed!

Posted by Clarence Darby The Villain at July 9, 2011 5:23 PM ET:

It's highly plausible that someone of Kashmiri's caliber can ghost himself. This process would be facilitated in order to avoid US-sponspored snuff strikes by either Predators/Reapers or Pakistani gun-for-hires..

Posted by zulu1 at July 10, 2011 7:40 PM ET:

Exactly. Keep on wondering if ISI is trying to pull a fast one. That boils down to what his recent relation was with the ISI. Remember that Kashmiri used to be somewhat of the golden boy of ISI-sponsored jihadists. Kashimiri was responsible for the raid and kills of among others 2 indian colonels.

But If Kashmiri kept on with attacks in pakistan eventually the establishment is going to get tired and at some point turn on him. Had that time come?