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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Hasan says:

    A correction. This is not “another” interview by Kashmiri. I did read the original complete text in Daily Express. The author referred to an old interview (pre 9/11) that was taken by him during the days when Kashmiri was involved in Kashmir resistance.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Hasan, Noted & corrected. And thanks. I should have picked this up when reading the article (I have the full article) but the author’s back & forth and the comparison with Syed’s article seems to have tripped me up. I think this is all the more interesting given that he mentions his allegiance to Mullah Omar back in 1999.

  • Tyler says:

    FYI, today’s terror arrests in Chicago regarding an alleged plot to bomb newspapers in Denmark over the Mohammed cartoons is being traced back to Kashmiri. That the American indicted, Headley, met personally with Kashmiri earlier this year and had reported to one of Kashmiri’s lieutenants over the phone. The indictment itself alleges this. Leads me to suspect this case could have played a role in the recent successes killing Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan (Jaziri, Jalolov, getting close to Kashmiri.)


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