Kashmiri is dead, al Qaeda spokesman suggests

A recent propaganda statement released by al Qaeda’s spokesman for Pakistan indicated that Ilyas Kashmiri was indeed killed, most likely last year in a US drone strike in South Waziristan.

Ustad Ahmand Farooq, the al Qaeda spokesman, mentioned Kashmiri along with Baitullah Mehsud, Ibn Amin, and Badr Mansour, three top terrorist commanders based in Pakistan’s tribal areas who have been killed in drone strikes in the past several years. Farooq used the term “may Allah have mercy on all of them,” which is reserved for jihadists who have been killed in battle or died of natural causes.

“Pakistani Jihadi leaders like Emir Baitullah Mehsud, Commander Ilyas Kashmiri, Commander Binyamin and Commander Badr Mansoor (may Allah have mercy on all of them) are targeted in drone attacks…” Farooq said in a statement that was released on jihadist websites on March 13 and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“[A]nd similarly the son of the respected Afghan leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, his important comrades, and even his family members including women and children are also targeted in drone strikes; and the information for both is provided by Pakistani secret agencies: where then is this division?” Farooq continued, referring to Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has been the target of multiple US drone strikes.

Baitullah Mehsud was the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan on August 2009. Commander Binyamin is Ibn Amin, a dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban commander from Swat who was killed in a US drone strike in the Khyber tribal agency in December 2010. Badr Mansoor was a senior al Qaeda leader who served as a nexus between Pakistani jihadist groups such as the Taliban and Harakat-ul-Mujahideen; he was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan in January 2012.

Farooq’s statement is “the most convincing piece of evidence to emerge from al Qaeda that indicates he [Kashmiri] was indeed killed,” a US intelligence official who tracks the terror group in Pakistan and Afghanistan told The Long War Journal.

Al Qaeda has not released an official martyrdom statement to announce Kashmiri’s death, but the terror group does not always release such a statement to confirm a senior leader’s death. In the past, al Qaeda has confirmed the deaths of some of its senior leaders in a similar fashion, to include Saleh al Somali (the former external operations chief killed in a drone strike in December 2009) and Abdullah Said al Libi (the former leader of the Lashkar al Zil, who was also killed in a drone strike in December 2009).

Kashmiri, who has served as the chief of al Qaeda’s military operations and a member of its external operations council, as well as the head of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami’s Brigade 313, was reported to have been killed in a Predator strike on June 3, 2011 that leveled a compound in the Wana area of South Waziristan.

But questions immediately arose that called the reports of his death into question. HUJI’s Brigade 313 released a statement that was quickly regarded as suspect due to errors in the text as well as an accompanying photograph purportedly of Kashmiri’s corpse that turned out to be that of a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative killed during the terror assault on Mumbai. HUJI also claimed that Ustadh Ahmad Farooq was among those killed. Farooq has subsequently released several al Qaeda propaganda tapes.

One month after the strike, anonymous Pakistani officials told Dawn that they believe Kashmiri is alive, and US and Pakistani intelligence never confirmed his death. Also, Kashmiri’s family said it was never notified by jihadists of his death. Kashmiri was also reported to have met with Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud in North Waziristan just several weeks ago.

Kashmiri had previously been reported killed in a US drone strike in 2009, but he emerged a month later to deny his death and affirm his role in al Qaeda.

For more information on Ilyas Kashmiri and Brigade 313, see LWJ reports:

For more information on reports of Kashmiri’s 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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  • mike merlo says:

    This sounds like he succumbed to injuries sustained in the drone attacked.

  • Charu says:

    I’ll believe this when they dig up his corpse and ID his DNA. Until then, the working assumption should be that he is somewhere in Bangladesh lying low and preparing for the next spectacular act of terrorism; like what he had David Headley scout for him in Denmark.

  • Villiger says:

    Bill, this still sounds ambiguous to me. Could it be as the Indian intel said that he’s faking his death. He must have known after OBL’s death, that his name would figure prominently in OBL’s computer data and, so American would have placed him as a priority target. Maybe AQ is supporting this endeavour of the plot to fake it?

  • villiger says:

    Charu, its good to see you back and interesting angle on the Bangladesh prospect. Would be happy to hear more from you in this difficult juncture of the war.

  • night_eclipse says:

    Ilyas Kashmiri was always a mysterious figure. I only know of one real picture of him with the sunglasses. Besides that he has never released any audio, or video statements or interviews. I have never even seen any jihadists make tributes to him.
    I wonder why Kashmiri wants to hide in the dark all the time. Intelligence agencies already know who he is and what he wants to do, so there’s no point hiding. Come out of the dark and show your face.

  • Charu says:

    Villiger, nice to see you back here. I have been lurking; reading up on Bill’s excellent reports. However, the news is depressingly familiar and the political momentum appears to be in the Taliban’s (and their ISI handler’s) favor. Karzai seems to be bipolar and doomed to meet Najibullah’s fate, and the US is following the path of the Soviets. I see Afghanistan going back to the (1990’s) future and an emboldened Pakistan wreaking havoc through terrorist acts in the region, and probably in the UK/Europe.

  • villiger says:

    Charu i couldn’t express these well-rounded sentiments nearly as well as you. I have been away partly due to some personal preoccupations and partly as you say the news is depressingly familiar.
    Until last year, I had hoped that Obama would be emboldened by re-election and finish the job with style but slim chance of that now.
    Hear from you later.


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