Ilyas Kashmiri’s killing remains shrouded in mystery
June 17, 2011
The reports about the death of Ilyas Kahmiri have resurfaced again after 3rd June, 2011 drone strike that reportedly killed nine people, including Ilyas Kashmiri, in South Waziristan. So far there is no official confirmation from Pakistan and USA. However, the 313 Brigade, of which Kashmiri remained commander in chief, was swift in confirming the death of Ilyas Kashmiri in a hand written pamphlet. It must be kept in mind that this is highly unusual on part of Al-Qaeda and TTP because under usual circumstances they do not confirm the deaths of its leaders. In the case of Baitullah Mehsud, his death was not confirmed before one month, and the death of Qari Hussain has not been confirmed so far. In this whole scenario, it is strange that what made Al-Qaeda, HuJI and 313 Brigade to show such a prompt response in affirmation of Kashmiri’s death. In addition to it, HuJI spokesperson Abu Hanzala issued a statement in which it said it would take revenge from the US for Kashmiri's death.
It is noteworthy that Ilyas Kashmiri was pronounced dead twice in the past in a short span of one week. First it was 7th September 2009 that news appeared in the international media that Ilyas Kashmiri was no more; that he was targeted and killed in US drone strike. However, this development proved very short-lived and on 14 September, 2009, there was media buzz again about his death. This news could not provide relief to the USA and the West for a long time as he was again seen alive and kicking in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
All acrobatic survivals made Ilyas Kashmiri a Robin Hood-type of character, who could even survive drone attacks. This image was strengthened when a group of fidayeen attacked General Headquarter in Rawalpindi on 10th October, 2009. It later transpired that Ilyas Kashmiri had masterminded that attack. Recently, the 22nd May attack on Mehran Naval Base in Karachi baffled Pakistani defense and security officials. The reason was that it was almost a copy of the GHQ attack. Further investigation revealed that the two incidents shared many similarities. Anyhow, recent reports suggest that on 3rd June, Ilyas Kashmiri reached Laman village in Ladha, a Wana town of South Waziristan Agency. This move was apparently a bid to relocate in the wake of expected operation in North Waziristan Agency.
Ilyas Kashmiri had a love-hate relationship with Pakistani establishment. In 1980s he was trained and nurtured by the ISI and the CIA to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Ilyas Kashmiri was a man of great valor and fearlessness. These qualities were enough to get him close to the Pakistani establishment. He was used both in Afghanistan and Kashmir very intelligently by Pakistan. However, he was trapped by Indian armed forces in Kashmir. However, the arrest could not restrain the Jehadi inside Ilyas Kashmiri. He escaped from the Indian Jail in Kashmir and came to Pakistan. When he reached here, things were changed because of the release of Molana Masood Azhar from Indian custody. The later formed Jaish-e-Muhammad. Ilyas was asked by all corners to join this newly-born organization under the command of Molana Massod Azhar. However, the maverick Ilyas Kashmiri did not comply with these demands. That was the point where rifts started to appear between Ilyas Kashmiri and Pakistani establishment. In 2003, Ilyas was arrested in Pakistan for his alleged involvement in the plot to kill Musharaf.
Kashmiri was not very much popular among the masses, but in the defense and security circles of the West and the USA, he was a looming danger. On August 6, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton designated Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions were taken in consultation with the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice. In tandem with the HUJI designations, the Secretary of the Treasury also designated HUJI leader Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri under E.O. 13224 on August 6. These actions gave U.S. law-enforcement apparatus additional tools needed to restrict the flow of resources to both HUJI and Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri. By these measures, he was put into the same league as of Osama and Zawahari.
In addition, on August 10th, 2010, the United Nations took similar actions against Harakat-ul Jihad Islami and Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri. These actions require all UN member states to implement an asset freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo against this group and individual. Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counter terrorism, said that “the joint State and Treasury Department actions taken today, in conjunction with the United Nation’s listing, illustrate the international community’s resolve to counter the threat posed by HUJI and its leader Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri.” Ambassador Benjamin further noted that “the linkages between HUJI and al-Qa’ida are clear, and today’s designations convey the operational relationship between these organizations.”
In the start of 2010, Kashmiri became the new leader of Al-Qaeda’s Lashkar-e-Zil (shadow army) following the death of its former leader Abdulah Said Al Libi by US drone attack. In addition, he was Al-Qaeda’s chief strategist beside Saif Al-Adal. Security analysts say that death of Ilyas Kashmiri is a severe blow to the missions of Al-Qaeda. Ilyas was one of the few indigenous Al-Qaeda fighters from Pakistan. He was born and brought up in Kashmir but died in far away South Waziristan.