Peshawar: Chief of the Harkatul Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) Ilyas Kashmiri, cited as one of the masterminds of PNS Mehran Base and plotting series of attacks in European cities and who forged close links with the Al Qaeda, has been killed in a US drone attack. According to BBC Urdu, Kashmiri was among the nine killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan on the night between Friday and Saturday. The U.S. State Department holds Kashmiri’s Harkatul Jihad Islami organiztion as responsible for various terrorist attacks in Pakistan and India.
The death of Kashmiri has been confirmed by Harkatul Jihad Islami and Pakistani authorities. The drone attack was launched in Ghwa Khawa, around 20 kilometres from Wana, when a group of Taliban was drinking tea in a garden. Nine people were dead and three were injured in the attack. All the killed were Punjabi Taliban, it is said.
An eye-witness on the condition of anonymity claimed that Kashmiri had come to the area half an hour ago, but fell prey to the drone attack. According to him, two missiles were fired at them, rocking the entire region. The local have buried the victims in a local graveyard. Considered one of the most dangerous terror leaders in the world, he headed “Brigade 313” that is believed to have masterminded the May 22 attack on a naval base in Karachi.
An official told BBC Urdu service that he had received information about Kashmiri’s death but could not confirm it.
Witnesses were quoted as saying that Kashmiri had arrived in South Waziristan from the Khyber tribal region. The bushy bearded Kashmiri, who is also named in the Mumbai terror attack case against Pakistani Canadian accused Tahawwur Hussain Rana, was described by one senior US official as a rising star in Al Qaeda terror group, NBC News had reported.
Rana, who is accused of providing material support to banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and providing a cover to Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley for scouting targets for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, has gone on trial in Chicago.
Although the attacks on European cities never came off, Kashmiri, who frequently sported aviator-styled dark glasses, had told a reporter for the Asian Times that the 2008 Mumbai attack was “nothing compared to what has already been planned for the future”.
According to the Chicago case indictment, Kashmiri based his terror operations in western Pakistan, and starting in 2007 was “in regular contact with Al Qaeda”. In February 2009, the indictment states, Headley met Kashmiri and another co-defendant in the Waziristan region of Pakistan and handed him surveillance videotapes he had taken of the Copenhagen offices of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that had run cartoons on Prophet Muhammad, to help plan a terrorist operation.
“During the meeting, Kashmiri indicated that he had already reviewed the Copenhagen videotapes and suggested that they consider using a truck bomb in the operation,” the indictment states. “Kashmiri also indicated he could provide manpower for the operation.
The United States had given Pakistan time till July to capture Al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri and Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar. It has also warned of a military offensive in North Waziristan if they are not captured. According to US.. media reports, the U.S. had handed over to Pakistan a list of five terrorists, seeking immediate intelligence information on them. It reportedly also wanted Pakistan to possibly target these terrorists in joint operations.
Besides Ilyas Kashmiri and Mullah Omar, the list included Al Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri, the operating chief of Haqqani network Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Libyan operations chief of Al Qaeda Atiya Abdel Rahman. Abdel Rahman had emerged as a key intermediary between Osama bin Laden and Qaeda’s affiliate networks across the world.
The list was discussed during two meetings between Pakistani and U.S. officials in the past two weeks, and also during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s talks with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad .