Al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri spotted at Taliban meeting


Kashmiri-before-after-dead-SITE.JPG

Left: a photograph purported to be Ilyas Kashmiri after his death. The picture is actually that of Abu Dera Ismael Khan, a Lashkar-e-Taiba fighter who was a member of the suicide assault team that attacked Mumbai, India, in November 2008. Right: Ilyas Kashmiri. The image on the left is published courtesy of the SITE Intelligence Group.

A senior al Qaeda leader who is one of the terror group's most dangerous military commanders and strategists, and who was reportedly killed in a drone strike last June, has been spotted at a meeting with the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Ilyas Kashmiri, who has served as the chief of al Qaeda's military operations and a member of its external operations council, as well as the head of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami's Brigade 313, is said to have met with Hakeemullah Mehsud in North Waziristan, according to Daily Times.

Kashmiri "reportedly visited North Waziristan this week and held sittings with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] leader Hakeemullah Mehsud," Daily Times reported. "Sources said that during the visit, Kashmiri spent a night with Mehsud, as his guest. During Kashmiri's visit to the TTP comrade in Waziristan, a renowned journalist from Islamabad was also reportedly present there."

Kashmiri and Hakeemullah conducted a strategy session where they "allegedly reviewed the future strategy in connection with jihad, his [Hakeemullah's] movement and the present situation in Afghanistan."

US intelligence officials claimed that Kashmiri was killed in a Predator strike on June 3, 2011 that leveled a compound in the Wana area of South Waziristan. Ustadh Ahmad Farooq, al Qaeda in Pakistan's top spokesman and propagandist, and seven other HUJI fighters were reported to have been killed in the strike.

Immediately after the strike, Abu Hanzla Kashir, a purported spokesman for Kashmiri's 313 Brigade, one of several al Qaeda military formations based along the Afghan-Pakistan border, claimed that Kashmiri and Farooq were killed in the strike [see Threat Matrix report, Was al Qaeda's leader of Pakistan killed in the South Waziristan Predator strike?].

But al Qaeda never released an official martyrdom statement announcing the deaths of Kashmiri or Farooq. And Kashir's account was immediately called into question when discrepancies in the statement were identified. In addition, a photo that was released with the statement and a photo purported to be that of Kashmiri's corpse turned out to be instead a photo of a member of the November 2008 Mumbai suicide assault team who was killed during that attack. Also, Farooq has released several propaganda tapes for al Qaeda since his purported death.

One month after the strike, anonymous Pakistani officials told Dawn that they believe Kashmiri is alive, and US and Pakistani intelligence never confirmed his death. Also, Kashmiri's family said it was never notified by jihadists of his death.

Last year, Indian intelligence officials stated that they believe Kashmiri faked his death to throw the US off of his trail. US intelligence officials have since told The Long War Journal that they are uncertain of Kashmiri's status, and said they have not seen definitive proof that he was indeed killed in the June 3, 2011 drone strike.

Kashmiri has been the subject of false death rumors in the past. In September 2009, Kashmiri was also reported to have been killed in a Predator strike. That report was quickly debunked one month later, however, when Kashmiri was interviewed by Syed Saleem Shahzad, the reporter from the Asia Times and AKI who is believed to had been killed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate last year.

Background on Ilyas Kashmiri

US intelligence considers Kashmiri to be one of al Qaeda's most effective commanders. He served as the operational chief of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, an al Qaeda-linked group that operates in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami 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 HUJI as well as for his links to al Qaeda.

Kashmiri has also been linked to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, which has viewed him as an asset due to his prowess in fighting the Indians in Jammu and Kashmir. He is said to have been a member of Pakistan's Special Services Group, although he denied it in an interview with the Asia Times in 2010. One legend attributed to Kashmiri is that he beheaded a sepoy and presented the head to General Pervez Musharraf.

In late 2003, Kashmiri was detained by Pakistani police for his alleged role in an attempted assassination of Musharraf, but he was inexplicably released in February 2004. Kashmiri resurfaced in 2007 after the Pakistani military assault on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad and assumed command of Brigade 313. Kashmiri expanded Brigade 313's leadership cadre and rank and file, bringing in members of terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, and a host of other terror groups, as well as members of Pakistan's military and intelligence services.

As the leader of Brigade 313, Kashmiri took little time in turning on select targets in Pakistan. 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. He also orchestrated the 2009 attack on Pakistani Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the assault on a naval base in Karachi in May 2011.

Kashmiri was involved in the assassination of Major General Faisal Alvi, the retired commander of the Special Services Group, in Rawalpindi in late 2008. Alvi was killed just months after sending a letter to General Ashfaz Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's top military officer, in which he threatened to expose two Pakistani generals' involvement with the Taliban. Also, Kashmiri reportedly drafted a plan to assassinate General Kayani, but the plan was canceled by al Qaeda's senior leadership.

But Kashmiri's sights were not limited to Pakistan. He 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.

Al Qaeda recognized Kashmiri's ability, and he was picked to lead the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda's paramilitary Shadow Army, which operates along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Kashmiri took control of al Qaeda's military forces after its prior leader, Abdullah Sa'ad al Libi, was killed in a US Predator airstrike in late 2008.

Kashmiri was well-suited for the role, as he has long had experience in running camps in the region. "Since 2001, Kashmiri has led HUJI training camps that specialized in terrorist operations, military tactics, and cross-border operations, including a militant training center in Miramshah, North Waziristan," according to the US Treasury report that added him to the list of specially designated global terrorists.

In 2009, al Qaeda give Kashmiri another top role in the terror network: he was appointed to serve as a member of al Qaeda's external operations network, which is assigned to strike at targets in the West. Kashmiri has been directly linked to one plot in the West. In January 2010, a US federal grand jury indicted Kashmiri for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.


For more information on Ilyas Kashmiri and Brigade 313, see LWJ reports:

For more information on reports of Kashmiri's death, see LWJ reports:

From 2011:

From 2009:



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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri spotted at Taliban meeting"

Posted by Paul D at March 7, 2012 9:31 AM ET:

Bill

Why does the Pak army not crack down on North Waziristan?

Too many Pak assets is my guess.

Posted by Ken North at March 7, 2012 11:42 AM ET:

For those of us who have always taken Kasmiri seriously, the far more interesting question would be what has he been up to for the last nine months ?

Posted by Eddie D. at March 7, 2012 11:51 AM ET:

They can spot this murderer in a meeting with his boss but noone can get the crosshairs on him with a weapon. What am I missing? Is America just practicing population control?

Posted by mike merlo at March 7, 2012 2:12 PM ET:

Interesting a Pakistani Che Guevara. I wonder how long before Kashmiri turns up in other 'theaters' if he already hasn't? Now I also wonder if there are 2 or more people masquerading as Kashmiri?

Posted by wallbang at March 7, 2012 2:14 PM ET:

@Paul D: That's the million dollar question. Actually, the answer is simple -- the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The real conundrum (and milliond dollar question) is how the US can motivate the Paks to clean up their own house. The Paks never will because, as demonstrated by their own duplicity with respect to Mr. Kashmiri, they find the islamist terror groups to be a useful tool. The ISI has long considered such terror groups (even in spite of the dog biting the very hand that feeds it) as a rear garrison for the always anticipated next conflict with the Indians. They are also useful for the purposes of plausible deniability -- utilizing the these groups as proxies allows the ISI to act with almost impunity in lashing out at its enemies, both acknowledged and not. That way, when the Americans want to know why these fighters are streaming over the border to hurt our interests in Afghanistan (something the Paks were only forced, practically at gun point, to go along with), the Paks can feign ignorance. This is the Great Game with Pakistan, where backstabbing duplicity is practically a way of life

Posted by Devin Leonard at March 7, 2012 2:54 PM ET:

Well, try try again:)

Posted by rana muhammad imran khan at March 7, 2012 5:31 PM ET:

Sure, it was game by Kashmiri to announce his death by other mouths. He is a clever commander

Posted by Spooky at March 7, 2012 6:46 PM ET:

Not surprised. Seemed a bit too convenient.

As for why Pakistan isn't going after them, Pakistan is a bit busy with Balochistan at the moment...

Posted by Kevin at March 7, 2012 8:47 PM ET:

This is unprovable. The Pakistani media has been full of nonsense on many occasions I remember when the Pakistani media said they learned through reliable resources that Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a gunfight while they naming a successor for Baitullah Mehsud

Posted by villiger at March 8, 2012 10:51 AM ET:

Picking up on Spooky's point, we should get Pakistan ever busier in Balochistan. Or even better, get them out of Balochistan--a forceful surprise.

BALOCHISTAN IS THE KEY.

it is also nuclear-proof. Well, are the Paki's going to set-off nukes in their own territory? You never know, we are dealing with a bunch of insane people. Although on balance, i'd call them more too-clever-by-half than insane. And those type of people end up self-destructing. Work through the outcome paradigms, then act.

The last time this happened (East Pak/B'desh), grown-ups were weeping, Generals were turning in their badges...

Posted by Zulu1 at March 8, 2012 12:06 PM ET:

What kind of source placed kashmiri at the meeting? It wasn't just some other heavily bearded guy with sunglasses. I wouldn't be totally surprised but still it would be a trendshift. Since as u reported he was even eulogized in a AQ-related jihadi-paper.

Posted by JRP at March 8, 2012 12:47 PM ET:

Kashmiri, the Taliban, and Ayman al Zawahiri are getting together for the purpose of reconstituting Al Qaeda and plan the next big strike in America. That is what is going on and the average person surmises it. So, the 64K question is: Do we just adhere to the withdrawal schedule or do we reinvigorate our efforts and seriously go after these people. What with the Paks in possession of the A-Bomb and North Korea & Iran on the verge of acquiring it and Russian criminal gangs more than willing to steal & sell one . . . How much time does America have left before a terrorist group with the will to do it gets its hands on an A-Bomb and detonates it inside the U.S.A.?