Sunday 5 June 2011

Another blow for al-Qaeda as Kashmiri is killed

Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri pictured in July 2001
"On behalf of Harkat Jihad al-Islami 313 Brigade we confirm the fact that our leader and commander-in-chief Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, along with other companions, have been martyred in an American drone attack at 11:15 pm on June 3, 2011 and Insha Allah (God willing) the present pharoah America will see our full revenge very soon. Our only target is America.
(Harkat Jihad alIslami) 313 Brigade
Abu Hunzala
June 4, 2011
With those few words, sent by fax to Pakistani news outlets, the death of one the region's most notorious militants appears to be confirmed. Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri and eight of his comrades were killed when three drone missiles struck two rooms in a compound in Ghwa Khwa, about 20 miles south of Wana in South Waziristan late on Friday night. It was the first such strike for nine days and the eighth since Osama bin Laden was killed on 2 May in Abbottabad.
The compound belonged to Mir Ajam Khan Tozikhel, an associate of the Mullah Nazir group of Waziris. Mullah Nazir, who signed a peace agreement with the Pakistan military in July 2009 in which he agreed not to shelter members of al-Qaeda or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, continues to support both organisations.
Most of those killed appeared to be Punjabis, named locally as Mohammad Usman, Ibrahim, Farooq, Amir Hamza and Imran. Two of them, Amir Hamza and Mohammad Usman, are known to be close associates of Kashmiri and usually travelled with him.
The group was meeting late at night to discuss what to do in the event of a Pakistani army offensive in North Waziristan when the missiles struck.
If the reports are accurate - Kashmiri was falsely reported dead in September 2009 - this is a major blow to the remnants of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. A Pakistani by birth, he was a former special forces soldier who had been decorated by General Musharraf for beheading an Indian soldier in 2000 along the Line of Control in Kashmir.
However, he had thrown in his lot with al-Qaeda and was thought to be behind the March 2006 suicide bombing of the US consulate in Karachi and was also connected to the November 2009 attacks on Mumbai - according to recent testimony from David Coleman Headley.
He was also thought to be behind the attack on the PNS Mehran naval base in Karachi at the beginning of May and three deadly bus bombings targeting naval personnel in the preceding weeks.
He was important because he had extensive military experience dating back to the time of the Afghan war against the Soviets, during which he lost an eye and the end of his index finger.
Some reports say it was a tip-off from the Pakistan military that led to the missile strike that killed Kashmiri. If so, it is clear that the ISI had finally got fed up with a man who was once considered an asset, but who had since gone 'off message'. The Americans regarded him as so important that he had a $5 million bounty on his head.

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