Kashmiri is dead, al Qaeda spokesman suggests
A recent propaganda statement released by al Qaeda's spokesman for Pakistan indicated that Ilyas Kashmiri was indeed killed, most likely last year in a US drone strike in South Waziristan.
Ustad Ahmand Farooq, the al Qaeda spokesman, mentioned Kashmiri along with Baitullah Mehsud, Ibn Amin, and Badr Mansour, three top terrorist commanders based in Pakistan's tribal areas who have been killed in drone strikes in the past several years. Farooq used the term "may Allah have mercy on all of them," which is reserved for jihadists who have been killed in battle or died of natural causes.
"Pakistani Jihadi leaders like Emir Baitullah Mehsud, Commander Ilyas Kashmiri, Commander Binyamin and Commander Badr Mansoor (may Allah have mercy on all of them) are targeted in drone attacks..." Farooq said in a statement that was released on jihadist websites on March 13 and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
"[A]nd similarly the son of the respected Afghan leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, his important comrades, and even his family members including women and children are also targeted in drone strikes; and the information for both is provided by Pakistani secret agencies: where then is this division?" Farooq continued, referring to Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has been the target of multiple US drone strikes.
Baitullah Mehsud was the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan on August 2009. Commander Binyamin is Ibn Amin, a dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban commander from Swat who was killed in a US drone strike in the Khyber tribal agency in December 2010. Badr Mansoor was a senior al Qaeda leader who served as a nexus between Pakistani jihadist groups such as the Taliban and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen; he was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan in January 2012.
Farooq's statement is "the most convincing piece of evidence to emerge from al Qaeda that indicates he [Kashmiri] was indeed killed," a US intelligence official who tracks the terror group in Pakistan and Afghanistan told The Long War Journal.
Al Qaeda has not released an official martyrdom statement to announce Kashmiri's death, but the terror group does not always release such a statement to confirm a senior leader's death. In the past, al Qaeda has confirmed the deaths of some of its senior leaders in a similar fashion, to include Saleh al Somali (the former external operations chief killed in a drone strike in December 2009) and Abdullah Said al Libi (the former leader of the Lashkar al Zil, who was also killed in a drone strike in December 2009).
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, was reported to have been killed in a Predator strike on June 3, 2011 that leveled a compound in the Wana area of South Waziristan.
But questions immediately arose that called the reports of his death into question. HUJI's Brigade 313 released a statement that was quickly regarded as suspect due to errors in the text as well as an accompanying photograph purportedly of Kashmiri's corpse that turned out to be that of a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative killed during the terror assault on Mumbai. HUJI also claimed that Ustadh Ahmad Farooq was among those killed. Farooq has subsequently released several al Qaeda propaganda tapes.
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. Kashmiri was also reported to have met with Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud in North Waziristan just several weeks ago.
Kashmiri had previously been reported killed in a US drone strike in 2009, but he emerged a month later to deny his death and affirm his role in al Qaeda.
For more information on Ilyas Kashmiri and Brigade 313, see LWJ reports:
For more information on reports of Kashmiri's death, see LWJ reports:
- Top al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri killed in US Predator strike
- Questions emerge over HUJI's statement on al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri's death
- US intel believes Kashmiri killed in June Predator strike
- Kashmiri faked death: Indian intelligence
- Al Qaeda releases lecture by leader thought killed with Kashmiri
- Al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri spotted at Taliban meeting