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Ilyas Kashmiri reportedly killed in US drone attack in South Waziristan

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Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, the commander of Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), was killed in a US drone attack near Wana, South Waziristan, on Friday night, Pakistani officials said Saturday. Shoaib Khan, a political agent, confirmed that Kashmiri had died in the strike at a militant compound in Ghwa Khwa area. "Kashmiri was killed in the late night attack," Mr Khan told journalists.

Dawn newspaper quoted a Pakistani official as saying that there were "strong indications" that Kashmiri had been killed, but that it was impossible to provide 100 per cent confirmation. The corpses were burnt beyond recognition and swiftly buried. The Nation quoted local sources as saying the bodies of the militants were collected Saturday morning and buried in the nearby graveyard.  

A hand-written brief statement in Urdu-language from a purported spokesman of the HuJI, distributed in Wana Bazaar on Saturday afternoon, confirmed that Kashmiri was killed.

"Harkatul Jihad al-Islami's 313 Brigade confirms that in Friday's drone attack at 11:15pm our commander-in-chief, Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, was martyred," the spokesman, Abu Hamzullah Kasher, said in the statement. No one has heard of Kasher before and there is no independent confirmation of his claim.

However, A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said Kashmiri was "alive and safe", and had not been present at the time of the strike.

Who was Ilyas Kashmiri?

Kashmiri was number four on the Pakistani Interior Ministry's most wanted terrorist list in 2009 as reported by The News International on September 1, 2009.

On August 6, 2010, the U.S. government and the United Nations designated Pakistan's Harakat-ul Jihad al-Islami as a foreign terror group and blacklisted its commander Ilyas Kashmiri who was labeled by the US as "Specially Designated Global Terrorist." Washington had put a bounty of $5 million on his head under a "reward for justice" program.

Born in Mirpur in the Samhani Valley of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on February 10, 1964, Ilyas passed the first year of a mass communication degree at Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. Probably he did not continue due to his involvement in "jihadi' activities.

Kashmiri was mistakenly pronounced dead in a US drone strike in North Waziristan on September 7, 2009, but just one month later his interview was conducted by Asia Times Correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was abducted from Islamabad on May 29 and his tortured body was found two days later in a canal. In an article published on May 27 in the Asia Times, Shahzad claimed that Kashmiri was behind the attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22. At least 10 people were killed and two United States-made P3-C Orion surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft worth US$36 million each were destroyed before some of the attackers escaped through a cordon of thousands of armed forces.   Shahzad said that the attackers were from Ilyas Kashmiri's 313 Brigade, the operational arm of al-Qaeda.

In his October 15, 2009 interview with Ilyas Kashmir, Shahzad pointed out that   Kashmiri's bases and activities have always remained shrouded in secrecy. However, the arrest of five of his men in Pakistan earlier this year and their subsequent grilling helped lift the veil. Their information resulted in CIA drone strikes against him, the first in May and then again on September 7, when he was pronounced dead by Pakistani intelligence, and finally on September 14, after which the CIA said he was dead and called it a great success in the "war on terror." 

Kashmiri's last interview

Syed Saleem Shahzad was invited to a secret hideout in the South Waziristan, along Pak-Afghanistan border for the interview. Here are excerpts from Shahzad's interview with Ilyas Kashmiri published under the title: Al-Qaeda's guerrilla chief lays out strategy:

Shahzad: Do you believe that the upcoming South Waziristan operation will be the 'mother of all operations' in the region, as some analysts say.

Kashmiri : I don't know how to play with words during an interview. I have always been a field commander and I know the language of battlefields. I will try to answer your questions in the language I am familiar with.

Saleem! I will draw your attention to the basics of the present war theater and use that to explain the whole strategy of the upcoming battles. Those who planned this battle actually aimed to bring the world's biggest Satan [US] and its allies into this trap and swamp [Afghanistan]. Afghanistan is a unique place in the world where the hunter has all sorts of traps to choose from.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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