Kashmiri terrorists in training. Image from Der Speigel.
New details have emerged about Ilyas Kashmiri, the al Qaeda and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami leader who is thought to have been killed during a US Predator strike in North Waziristan earlier this month. The News and Middle East Transparent reported that Kashmiri had been a commando in the elite Special Services Group (SSG), the special operations unit trained by Britain’s Special Air Service. In the early 1990s, Kashmiri was ordered to join the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, and later he was urged to join the Jaish-e-Mohammed. From The News:
Very few people know that Ilyas Kashmiri was a former SSG commando of Pakistan Army. He was originally from Kotli area of Azad Kashmir. He was deputed by Pakistan Army to train the Afghan Mujahideen fighting against the Russian Army in mid-80s. He was an expert of mines supplied to Afghan Mujahideen by the US. He lost one eye during the Jihad against Russian invaders and later on he joined Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami of Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi.
Ilyas Kashmiri was based in Miramshah area of North Waziristan where he was working as an instructor at a training camp. After the withdrawal of Russian Army from Afghanistan, Ilyas Kashmiri was asked by Pakistani establishment to work with Kashmiri militants. He joined the Kashmir chapter of Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami in 1991. After a few years, he developed some differences with the head of HuJI Qari Saifullah Akhtar.
Ilyas Kashmiri created his own 313 Brigade in HuJI. He was once arrested by Indian Army from Poonch area of Indian held Kashmir along with Nasrullah Mansoor Langrial. He was imprisoned in different Indian jails for two years and finally he escaped from there after breaking the jail. His old friend Langrial is still imprisoned in India.
Ilyas Kashmiri became a legend after escaping from the Indian jail. It was 1998 when the Indian Army started incursions along the Line of Control and killed Pakistani civilians many times by crossing the border. Ilyas Kashmiri was given the task to attack the Indians from their back. He did it many times.
Kashmiri dropped out of favor with the military after refusing the military’s suggestion to join Jaish-e-Mohammed. In 2003 he was arrested after being accused of involvement in the assassination attempts against then-President Musharraf, and was later released. After the 2007 Pakistani Army assault on the radical Lal Masjid in Islamabad, he rejoined the jihadi movement, set up camp in Ramzak in North Waziristan, and was joined by several Pakistani Army military officers. He resumed his position as the operations chief of HuJI and a senior commander in Brigade 313.
Kashmiri was behind the assassination of Major General Faisal Alvi, the retired commander of the SSG, in Rawalpindi in late 2008. Alvi was killed just months after sending a letter to General Kiyani. In the letter, Alvi accused two generals of forcing his retirement. According to The Times Online, Alvi said he was forced to retire after threatening to expose the two generals’ involvement with the Taliban:
Alavi believed he had been forced out because he was openly critical of deals that senior generals had done with the Taliban. He disparaged them for their failure to fight the war on terror wholeheartedly and for allowing Taliban forces based in Pakistan to operate with impunity against British and other Nato troops across the border in Afghanistan.
The order to kill Alvi was reportedly given by the North Waziristan Taliban to avenge operations in the tribal areas, but it is more likely the unnamed Pakistani generals, who are thought to still be on active duty, ordered the hit.