Is Ilyas Kashmiri really dead?
Left: a purported photograph of 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 before his death. The image on the left is published courtesy of the SITE Intelligence Group.
Last week, US intelligence officials said they were certain that al Qaeda military commander and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami leader Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a Predator strike in South Waziristan in early June. One US intelligence official told CNN that he was "99 percent sure" Kashmiri was killed. However, no intel official would specify why they believe Kashmiri is indeed dead.
Anonymous sources have since come forward telling Dawn that they believe Kashmiri is alive:
Sources revealed that Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, the commander of Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), who was reportedly killed in a US drone attack in South Waziristan last month, is still alive, DawnNews reported.
Sources said that security officials of the United States and Pakistan failed to confirm the death of the HuJI commander.
He is still active in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, sources added.
Note that The Long War Journal has been agnostic on reports of Kashmiri's death, as our sources have been unwilling to say that he was killed. Also, and perhaps most importantly, al Qaeda hasn't issued a statement announcing his death; the purported martyrdom statement released by an individual claiming to be from HUJI is more than questionable; and an accompanying photograph said to be of Kashmiri's corpse was actually that of a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba suicide assault squad that attacked Mumbai in November 2008.
On another occasion, nearly two years ago, Kashmiri was also reported to have been killed, in a Predator strike back in September 2009. That report was quickly debunked one month later, however, when Kashmiri was interviewed by Syed Saleem Shahzad, the recently slain reporter from the Asia Times and AKI.
If Kashmiri is still alive, this raises an important question: Would that mean the US now has only 11-21 al Qaeda leaders left to kill in order to strike the death blow to the terror group, instead of the 10-20 claimed by former CIA Director and now Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta?
For more information on Kashmiri and reports of his death, see LWJ reports: