Ilyas Kashmiri killed in US drone attack

Last Updated: Sunday, June 5, 2011 - 09:41

Islamabad: Top al-Qaeda linked militant,
Ilyas Kashmiri, a key planner behind the gruesome Mumbai
terror attack, was killed in a targeted US drone strike in
Pakistan`s restive northwest, a month after the slaying of
Osama bin Laden.



47-year-old Kashmiri, a former Pakistani army
commando, on whose head the US had put a price of USD five
million, was killed when a predator drone fired four missiles
late last night at a compound in Ghwakhwa area of South
Waziristan.
"The attack targeted Kashmiri", Pakistan officials
said. His outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami confirmed his death
in faxed messages to TV channels here.



Confirming his killing, HuJI spokesperson Abu Hanzala
said in a statement that "Commander Ilyas Kashmiri was killed
in a US drone attack" and that the outfit will take revenge on
the US for this.



The killing of Kashmiri, who was widely speculated to
take over as al-Qaeda chief after the killing of bin Laden,
comes just days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
handed over a list of five most wanted al-Qaeda and Taliban
leaders, including Kashmiri to Pakistan.



The others in the hit list inlcude al-Qaeda No 2 Ayman
al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda operations chief Atiya Abdel Rahman, as
well as Taliban leader Mullah Omar, all of whom US
intelligence officials believe are hiding in Pakistan.



Pakistan and US have also announced setting up of joint
intelligence teams to hunt down these most wanted men.



"Nine militants were killed in last night`s drone
attacks and all of them were Pakistani Punjabi Taliban,"
security officials said.



Kashmiri, who had lost one eye often wore aviator-style
sunglasses. He also had a missing index finger and was
notorious for his claim to have presented the severed head of
an Indian soldier to the then President Pervez Musharraf.



Kashmiri was recently appointed the chief of the 313
brigade, an operational arm of al-Qaeda.



Kashmiri, a resident of Mirpur in Pakistan occupied
Kashmir (Pok), is one of the most wanted terrorist by Indian
security agencies.
Kashmiri has been linked to several major terror
attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai strikes and the recent
Taliban raid on the PNS Mehran naval airbase in Karachi.



The US was after him for quite some time. Recently in
a Court testimony, confessed American terrorist David Headley
had said that he had offered to US security agencies to travel
undercover to Pakistan`s tribal areas to present Kashmiri with
an ornate sword that could be fitted with a homing device to
set him up for a missile attack.



British and American counter-terrorism officials believe
that he was the main coordinator of a recent terror plot
targetting Britain, France, Germany and Europe, which was
reportedly in early stages when busted by intelligence
agencies last year.



In January 2010, a US federal grand jury had indicted
him for a terrorism related offences in connection with a plot
to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten following an uproar
over a blasphemous cartoon.



"Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami 313 Brigade confirms the
martyrdom of our leader Ilyas Kashmiri in a US drone strike on
June 3, 2011 at 11.15 pm," HuJI spokesman Hanzala said in a
hand-written fax message sent to Pakistani media groups.



"We will take revenge (for the killing of) our leader
from the US," the statement said.



He was reportedly sitting in an apple orchard with other
militants and had come to the area shortly before the missile
strike.



The US recently gave Pakistan time till July the month
when NATO and allied forces will begin withdrawing from
Afghanistan to launch a military offensive in North
Waziristan tribal region and to capture the five most wanted
al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.



A resident of South Waziristan was quoted as saying by
BBC Urdu that witnesses saw the bodies of the militants killed
in the drone strike lying in the apple orchard this morning.



Local residents buried the bodies in a graveyard in the
same area today.



Security sources said Kashmiri and other senior militant
leaders recently arrived in Waziristan from Khyber tribal
region.



Kashmiri was considered very close to al Qaeda and
reports had suggested that he might become the next chief of
the terrorist network after bin Laden`s death.



Kashmiri belongs to PoK and some reports have claimed he
served in the Pakistan Army`s elite Special Service Group.



He was reported killed in a US drone strike in North
Waziristan in September 2009 but re-emerged a month later to
give an interview to Syed Saleem Shahzad, the journalist who
was recently abducted and killed.



PTI



First Published: Sunday, June 5, 2011 - 09:41

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