Ilyas Kashmiri, then and now
Kashmiri terrorists in training. Image from Der Speigel.
Ten years ago, Muhammad Amir Khakwani Zangar, a journalist for the Urdu-language Daily Express, made the trek to a jihadi camp to talk to Ilyas Kashmiri, the dangerous al Qaeda commander operating from North Waziristan. Even back then, Kashmiri, who narrowly missed being killed in a US airstrike this September, admitted his goal for jihad does not end with the liberation of Kashmir, and that his allegiance is to Mullah Omar.
"We have absolute permission from him to go to any place and engage ourselves in jihadi activities," Kashmiri said. This conflicts directly with statements by those who claim the "Afghan insurgency" is merely a "genuine national movement."
From the Daily Express article on Kashmiri:
After getting a detailed account of his activities, I asked him: if the Kashmir issue is resolved in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, will you and your associates abandon your armed struggle and come to the national mainstream? For this, pat came the reply: "Do not forget the fact that after occupied Kashmir, we have to take back Hyderabad, Deccan, Junagarh, and Manawar from the Hindus."
I gently repeated my question: "Assuming that these three areas will be taken back, then what?" After a lengthy pause, I got the answer: "Look, there will be need for jihad throughout the world. Besides Palestine, Chechnya, and Philippines, wherever atrocities will be committed on the Muslims, we will reach there."
When I asked as to according to a major school of thought of Muslim religious scholars, jihad cannot be declared without the consent of the State, that in the modern times, peace accords are being made at global level and that it is not possible to deviate from those accords; there was silence for a few moments.
Then Ilyas Kashmiri said: "Brother, I am a simple field commander. I do not understand these Sharia issues. As such, if permission from the State and the Ameer [chief] is mandatory, then, we folks have taken oath from Mullah Omar and we consider him as Ameerul Momineen [chief of the faithful -- Muslims]. We have absolute permission from him to go to any place and engage ourselves in jihadi activities."
In the same interview, Ilyas Kashmiri disclosed: "I have learned the art of war from the Arabs. The Arabs fighting in Afghanistan, including Egyptians and Palestinians, have adopted a separate style combining the war strategies of the Russians and Americans. I am an expert in that style. We have trained our boys also in that mode so that they can fight better than India's regular army commandos."
Note: Earlier today I described Zangar's interview with Ilyas Kashmiri as recent. In fact,
Zangar's interview with Ilyas Kashmiri was from 10 years ago. The interview is even more interesting in this light. The text has been updated to reflect that the interview was given in 1999.