After eliminating Osama bin Laden, the United States scored another major victory in the war on global jihad Friday with the targeting killing of Muhommad Ilyas Kashmiri.
Kashmiri, one of al-Qaida's most active leaders and billed as a possible succesor to Bin Laden, was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region according to locals, officials and a spokesman of the dreaded "313 Brigade.'"
While it is always difficult for journalists to confirm reports in Pakistan's volatile tribal areas that are no-go areas, information pouring in from Pakistani spies and tribal journalists indicate that the one-eyed Kashmiri is indeed dead.
On Saturday, Abu Hanzallah, identifying himself as a spokesman for the '313 Brigade', a unit of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islami (HuJI), faxed a letter to media organizations confirming Kashmiri's death in a drone strike on Friday. He mentioned in the message that Kashmiri's death would be avenged.
Last week, during her visit to Pakistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton singled out Kashmiri as one of the top five al-Qaida and Taliban leaders.
A former officer of Pakistan military's special services group (SSG), Ilyas Kashmiri is believed to have carried out several terrorist attacks in India and Pakistan, including the one on Pakistan's naval air station (PNS) Mehran in Karachi on May 22. His '313 Brigade' is suspected of perpetrating several high-profile operations, including the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008, in which 166 people were killed. Among the vicitms were Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg and his wife Rivka at the Mumbai Chabad house.
The '313 Brigade' specializes in coordinated, organized simultaneous attacks on targeted places. Kashmiri merged his terrorist outfit into the ranks of al-Qaeda but maintained a separate identity for his group as well.
Kashmiri was also said to be the operational head of al-Qaeda. The United States blamed him for organizing brazen attacks inside Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Washington offered $5 million for any information that would locate the renegade Pakistani military official.
On Friday, two drone strikes targeted compounds near Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan. Later some militants operating in the region claimed that Kashmiri was killed in one of the strikes. The attack came one day after fighting between terrorist insurgents from Afghanistan and Pakistani soldiers resulted in 58 deaths
in the same region.
Kashmiri's death has previously been mis-reported. In 2009, Pakistani intelligence and U.S. officials pronounced him dead in a drone attack. The CIA called it a great success in the war on terror. But those reports proved wrong when Kashmiri was interviewed by Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad in North Waziristan.
Kashmiri's death will be a serious blow to Islamist terror outfits after the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a covert US operation in Pakistan's Abbottabad town.
Ilyas Kashmiri, 47, had a long history of terrorist activity. Like Mullah Omer, he also lost one eye fighting the former USSR forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Later, while working with Kashmiri terrorists against India, he became famous with the Pakistani military establishment for escaping from an Indian jail where he was detained.
Pakistan's former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, banned his HuJI in 2002. Kashmiri was subsequently arrested in connection with an assassination attempt on Musharraf, but was released due to lack of evidence.
Kashmiri was born in 1964 in Bimbur (old Mirpur) of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 1964. He got a degree in mass communication from Islamabad's Allama Iqbal Open University. However, during student life, he had strong affiliations with jihadi outfits. His first exposure into the field of terrorism was through the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front (JKLF).