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 Harakat-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:

From 2011:

From 2009:

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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  • Jim says:

    I would believe US officials over some anonymous sources

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Some context: Early in 2010, US officials went on the record to say Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed. He wasn’t. Without a body, a statement announcing his death, or a reason why US officials believe he is dead (comms intercepts, DNA test, etc.), I remain skeptical. It has paid off; we at LWJ haven’t been on the wrong side of one of these reports (and in fact were the only news outlet saying Hakeemullah Mehsud was alive. The same was recently true for Fahd al Quso.)

  • Jim says:

    Still, in the immediate aftermath of the drone strike which reportedly took Kashmiri out, US officials were skeptical of his demise. Now they say they are almost 100% sure that he’s dead. Let’s hope they are right

  • Charu says:

    US officials today are looking for a way out of AfPak, and therefore they want to believe that Kashmiri is dead.
    Bill is obviously being facetious in asking whether it is 11-21 or 10-20 AQ leaders remaining to be eliminated. As we know, it is the quality of the leadership that really matters, and Kashmiri is in the top tier in terms of capability and his connections with the terrorist state army of Pakistan. If he isn’t in the AfPak border, then he is likely to be laying low in Bangladesh.

  • JRP says:

    Bearing in mind how deceptively cunning AQ was at FOB Chapman back in December 2009, when it wiped out a CIA Team that fell for an “information on Zawahiri” scam, what are the chances that AQ would stage a drone strike to protect a HVT by assembling a group of martyrs bearing samples of the HVT’s DNA (hair, nail clippings, pint of blood, maybe even a strip or two of skin from a non-vital body area) to be targeted.
    CIA falls for the false tip; the drone strike goes off; the DNA is discovered; the HVT is, erroneously declared dead; and he hunkers down till we pull out of AFPAK.

  • Graham says:

    Bangladesh? Is that country a new terrorist hideout?

  • Vienna,16-07-2011
    Dead or alive, Kashmiri

  • Sri says:

    Graham, nothing new in Bangladesh being used by terrorists and ISI. They had patronage of the administration when BNP was in power. HUJI has a strong presence there.

  • James says:

    I believe Bill on this matter.
    My mantra is: Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
    Let’s hope this guy is dead but be prepared ant not too surprised in the more likely scenario I feel that he isn’t.

  • Zulu1 says:

    I would so like to get inside of the mind of the ISI. If Kashmiri keeps on attacking and embarrasing the pakistani state they will be forced to take their hands off him. Had that time come already? If he actually is dead I think that the time had come. But another option is that the ISI will detain him and “rehabilitate” him, since its always hard to turn on a former protege. Especially one so admired as Kashmiri used to be in the ISI. I don’t think Kashmiri can fool the ISI, they got their tentacles everywhere. They are calling the shots here. Either they’re playing us or they had enough. So if he ever turns up again, consider us played.
    Of course all this depends on how much intel the US can get their hands on which is not filtered through the ISI? If the US manages to get intel on their own all this logic above falls.

  • Clement says:

    Still, in the immediate aftermath of the drone strike which reportedly took Kashmiri out, US officials were skeptical of his demise. Now they say they are almost 100% sure that he’s dead. Let’s hope they are right
    How can US officials bare this risk if it is wrong?

  • mike merlo says:

    It sounds like initially he was considered mortally wounded.

  • Cass says:

    Is the US trotting out this picture on the left as proof that Kashmiri is dead, or is someone else shopping it around? (No access to SITE) The teeth (size and alignment) don’t match, the distances from nose to eye and nose to chin are different, and even with the swelling of the corpse, the cheekbones are placed different. It’s close but not when you do the math. If that’s all they have, then you’re right to not call him dead, along with the other reasons you state. IMO

  • Bill Roggio says:

    see here for more background, the short of it is a person who claimed to be a HUJI operative released the statement, then jihadists released the photo with the statement on a well trafficked AQ forum..


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