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.