Ilyas Kashmiri

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This article is about the Pakistani al-Qaeda militant. For the actor, see Ilyas Kashmiri (actor).
Ilyas Kashmiri
Ilyas Kashmiri fair-use.JPG
Born (1964-02-10)10 February 1964
Pakistan administered Kashmir, Pakistan
Died 3 June 2011(2011-06-03) (aged 47)
North Waziristan, FATA, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani

Ilyas Kashmiri, also referred to as Maulana Ilyas Kashmiri[1] and Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri[2] (10 February 1964[3] – 3 June 2011[4][5]), was a senior al-Qaeda operative and leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI)[6] He was also connected with the Soviet-Afghan war, the Kashmir conflict and attacks against India, Pakistan and the United States.[7] In August 2010, the US and the United Nations designated him a terrorist.[8][9] NBC News reported that United States officials had mentioned him as a possible successor to Osama bin Laden as head of al-Qaeda.[10]

Military career and militant activities[edit]

Kashmiri hailed from the Mirpur District[3] of Pakistan. Kashmiri was reported by some media sources as having served in the Pakistan Army's elite Special Services Group (SSG),[7][11][12] however he denied this in an interview with journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad.[3] Kashmiri also spent a year studying communications at the Allam Iqbal University.[3]

In the Soviet war in Afghanistan, he trained the Afghan mujahideen in mine warfare in Miranshah on behalf of Pakistan.[7] During the fighting he lost an eye and an index finger.[7][13] He continued his militant activities in Kashmir after the war as a member of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), though disagreements with leader Qari Saifullah Akhtar several years after initially joining in 1991 led Kashmiri to establish his own new unit within HuJI known as the 313 Brigade.[7][14]

During the mid-1990s, Kashmiri and Nasrullah Mansoor Langrial were near Poonch when they were seized by the Indian Army and sent to prison, where he would spend the next two years before escaping and returning to Pakistan.[7] Upon his return Kashmiri continued to conduct operations against India, once reportedly being rewarded personally with Rs 100,000 (about US$1,164.24) by then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf for presenting the severed head of an Indian Army Soldier to him.[7][15] Pictures of Kashmiri with the head of the soldier in his hands were published in some Pakistani newspapers.[15]

Post-Kashmir activities[edit]

Kashmiri rejected orders to serve under Maulana Masood Azhar in the newly founded jihadist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed and was once even targeted by the group.[7] Falling out of favour with the Pakistani military, he was taken into custody and tortured in late 2003 in the wake of an attempt to assassinate President Musharraf.[7] From his release in February 2004[2] until the 2007 Siege of Lal Masjid he apparently did little, but later returned to the 313 Brigade in the terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), which is closely tied to al-Qaeda. Kashmiri rebuilt its strength while collaborating with the Taliban. This was part of a broader movement of Kashmir militants moving to Waziristan,[16] and Kashmiri reportedly moved personnel from his Kotli (Kashmir) training camp to a new one in Razmak (North Waziristan).[17] A U.S. indictment of Kashmiri stated that he "was in regular contact with al Qaeda [their italics] and in particular with Mustafa Abu al Yazid..."[18]

He has been associated with a number of attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2010 Pune bombing, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the killing of Ameer Faisal Alavi.[7][19][20] Syed Saleem Shahzad wrote that Kashmiri proposed the Mumbai attacks to al-Qaeda leaders as a way to create a war that would bring operations against al-Qaeda to a halt. The plan was approved and given to former LeT commander Major Haroon Ashik.

According to Asia Times Online, Kashmiri was behind a 2008 plan to assassinate Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as he stepped out of his car during daily visits to a gym; however, the al-Qaeda leadership rejected the plan on strategic grounds.[21] According to The News International, Kashmiri is accused of organising the December 2009 Camp Chapman attack against the CIA and the United States was seeking his arrest and extradition.[22]

In early 2010, Kashmiri was reported to be the new leader of al-Qaeda's Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army, following the death of its former leader Abdullah Said al Libi by an American drone.[23] According to journalist Amir Mir, citing Pakistani security sources, Kashmiri was subsequently assigned the role of organising attacks against Western targets after the regional command was taken by Saif Al-Adel, a former Egyptian army colonel newly released from Iran.[24]

Before his death, bin Laden had asked Kashmiri to plan an attack on Barack Obama, according to a column by David Ignaitius published on the Washington Post web site. Ignaitius stated that his column was based on documents seized from the raid on bin Laden's compound.[25] In the wake of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on 2 May 2011 during an American operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, terrorism analysts put forth Kashmiri's name as one of several possible successors to lead the organisation.[26][27][28]

U.S. indictment[edit]

On 27 October 2009, a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice named Kashmiri as a conspirator to whom an American citizen from Chicago, David Headley, arrested on terrorism related charges, "allegedly reported and attempted to report". The statement also noted that Kashimiri "issued a statement this month that he was alive and working with al Qaeda".[29] A report on details of the investigation stated that Kashmiri "was in regular contact with Headley for some time and their communications suggested that they were in the process of plotting fresh attacks in India."[30] Headley was reportedly distraught at news of Kashmiri's death, but after receiving confirmation that he was still alive, set off for Pakistan, at which time he was arrested by the FBI.[31]

Kashmiri was officially indicted on two counts, for "conspiracy to murder and maim in Denmark" (against the newspaper Jyllands-Posten) and "conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark".[18]

During court testimony on 31 May 2011, Headley indicated that he had conducted preliminary research for Kashmiri in a plot targeting Robert J. Stevens, the CEO of Lockheed-Martin, the defence contractor.[32]

Blacklisted as a terrorist by US and UN[edit]

On 6 August 2010, the United States labelled Kashmiri a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" while the United Nations added him and his group HuJI to its blacklist established under UN Security Council Resolution 1267. The label allows the United States to freeze any of his assets in US jurisdiction and to "prohibit US persons from engaging in any transactions with him." The UN resolution requires UN member states to freeze assets, ban travel and ban the sale of arms to Kashmiri and HuJI.[8][9]

Assassination attempt and reported death in 2009[edit]

Kashmiri was reported killed along with Hanifullah Janikhel and Kaleemullah in Machikhel, North Waziristan on 7 September 2009 when they were hit by a missile fired from a U.S. drone.[33] At the time he was reportedly one of the top 10 most wanted militant commanders in Pakistan.[17] However, in mid-October Kashmiri was reported to have survived the airstrike and granted an interview to Asia Times Online's Syed Saleem Shahzad.[34][35] A senior American official was later quoted by The Washington Times as saying "While there were preliminary indications that Kashmiri may have been dead, there is now reason to believe that he could be alive".[36] One rumour among militants asserted that Kashmiri had been outside urinating when the house he was staying at was hit.[37]

Death[edit]

On 3 June 2011, a US drone attack targeted a compound in the Ghwakhwa area of South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold. Nine militants, including Kashmiri, were reportedly killed in the missile strike.[4][5][38] Three other militants were badly injured in the attack.[5] Local officials reported that the militants in the compound were all members of the Punjabi Taliban.[5] Kashmiri had moved to Wana from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 10 days earlier.[5]

Lala Wazir, a spokesman for Mullah Nazir, a Taliban commander associated with the owner of the compound which was attacked, confirmed his death.[4][39] Qari Muhammad Idress, a close aide to Kashmiri and a senior HUJI commander, also claimed he was killed in the drone strike.[40] Al Qaeda also eulogised Kashmiri in the August issue of the Nawai Afghan Jihad magazine.[41] On 7 July 2011, CNN reported that an unnamed US Intelligence official said US officials were 99 percent certain Kashmiri was killed but he added "the folks that make that determination aren't ready to say so definitively."[42] The US State Department's Rewards for Justice Program, which at one at point designated Kashmiri as a wanted terrorist and offered a $5,000,000 bounty for information leading to his capture,[43] no longer has him listed as a wanted terrorist.[44] On 31 August 2011, Asia Times Online reported that a well known Taliban commander named Shah Sahib had replaced Kashmiri as commander of the Brigade 313.[45]

However, doubts remained of his death. A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) stated in June 2011 that Kashmiri was alive and well.[4] In mid-July 2011, Dawn reported that Kashmiri was still alive and active in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.[46][47][48] On 30 July 2011, the Indian government listed him as one the nation's five most wanted fugitives, indicating that Indian authorities think Kashmiri might still be alive.[49] In March 2012, the Daily Times reported that "reliable sources" had recently seen Kashmiri meeting with TTP head Hakimullah Mehsud in North Waziristan, but that journalists were unable to access the tribal regions in northern Pakistan to verify the report.[50][51]

Shortly after his death, the Pakistan Ministry of Interior alleged that Kashmiri's group had organised the assassination of Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti[52] and The Telegraph reported based on unnamed Pakistani officials that Kashmiri was organising a death squad to avenge Osama Bin Laden's death.[53] On 16 March 2012, Ustad Ahmad Farooq, Al Qaeda's lead spokesman in Pakistan, confirmed Kashmiri's death in an audiotape and eulogised him along with other pro-Al Qaeda militant leaders that were killed by US airstrikes in the tribal region.[54] On 10 May 2012, the United Nations Security Council officially labeled Kashmiri as "reportedly deceased" on the Al Qaeda Sanctions list and made it clear that they would treat him as dead until it could be proven otherwise.[55]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shahzad, Syed Saleem (October 2008). "Afghanistan: the neo-Taliban campaign". Le Monde Diplomatique. Retrieved 21 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Pak frees terrorist leaders". The Telegraph (Kolkota, India). Press Trust of India. 22 February 2004. Retrieved 21 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d Shahzad, Syed Saleem (15 October 2009). "Al-Qaeda's guerrilla chief lays out strategy". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Drone strike kills Ilyas Kashmiri". Dawn. 5 June 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Ilyas Kashmiri killed in US drone strike, confirms HuJI". The Times of India. 4 June 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2011. 
  6. ^ "Leading News Resource of Pakistan". Daily Times. 5 June 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mir, Hamid (20 September 2009). "How an ex-Army commando became a terrorist". The News International. Retrieved 21 September 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "US, UN declare Harakat-ul Jihad al-Islami a terrorist group". Google News. AFP. 7 August 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "Designations of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI) and its Leader, Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri" (Press release). US Department of State. 6 August 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  10. ^ "Illyas Kashmiri may succeed Osama: US officials". Dawn. 4 June 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2011. 
  11. ^ Lisa Curtis (11 March 2010). "Bad company: Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the growing ambition of Islamist militancy in Pakistan". The Heritage Foundation. "The U.S. Department of Justice indictment that was unsealed on January 14, 2009 names... Ilyas Kashmiri, a former commando with Pakistan’s elite Special Services Group, and now leader of the Harakat-ul-Jihadi-Islami, as the operational commander behind the Mumbai attacks." 
  12. ^ Bill Roggio (13 October 2009). "Ilyas Kashmiri survived last month's airstrike in Pakistan". The Long War Journal. "Kashmiri is also a longtime asset of Pakistan's military and intelligence services. He served as a commando in the elite Special Services Group (SSG), the special operations command trained by the US Army's Special Forces (SF). In the early 1990s, Kashmiri was ordered by the military to join the Harkat-ul Jihad Islami, and later he was urged to join the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which he refused to do." 
  13. ^ Sami Yousafzai; Ron Moreau; Christopher Dickey (23 October 2010), "The New Bin Laden", Newsweek, retrieved 25 October 2010 
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  15. ^ a b According to The Indian Express, the man beheaded was Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar (aged 24) of the 17 Maratha Light Infantry posted in the Nowshera sector when attacked on 27 February 2000. Pubby, Manu (22 September 2009). "24-yr-old sepoy was beheaded in 2000 LoC raid". The Indian Express. Retrieved 22 September 2009.  A memorial is to be built in Talekar's memory in Kolgaon, where his parents live. Raghavan, Ranjani (23 September 2009). "Dead sepoy's village doesn't know his killer is killed in Pakistan". The Indian Express. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
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  18. ^ a b "United States of America v. Ilyas Kashmiri, et al.". United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. p. 19. 
  19. ^ http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C02%5C22%5Cstory_22-2-2012_pg1_1
  20. ^ http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-2657-Growing-Pakistanisation-of-al-Qaeda
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  29. ^ "Two Chicago Men Charged in Connection With Alleged Roles in Foreign Terror Plot That Focused on Targets in Denmark". U.S. Department of Justice. Reuters. 27 October 2009. 
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  32. ^ "Headley: Militant had targeted Lockheed Martin". Dawn.com. AFP. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
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  38. ^ US strike 'kills' key Pakistan militant Ilyas Kashmiri, BBC News, 4 June 2011
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  51. ^ Al-Akhbar.com. "Al-Qaeda leader reported dead found "alive and well"". Al-Akhbar.com. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  52. ^ "Ilyas Kashmiri Group ‘Plotted the Murder’ Of Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti". Continental News. Retrieved 22 July 2011. "A dramatic six-page report by the Pakistan Ministry of Interior based on the findings of the Joint Investigation Team JIT probing the assassination of former Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti has revealed that the Ilyas Kashmiri group had crafted the plan to assassinate Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, that, Bhatti, report, Investigation, Shahbaz" 
  53. ^ Farmer, Ben (7 June 2011). "Al Qaeda leader planned death squad to avenge bin Laden". Telegraph. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  54. ^ "New Statement By Al-Qaeda's Ustad Ahmad Farooq Confirms Ilyas Kashmiri Dead". Memri Urdu-Pashtu Media Blog. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  55. ^ Pranab Dhal Samanta (20 May 2012). "UN updates status on Ilyas Kashmiri, India’s most wanted: Reported dead". Indian Express. Retrieved 22 May 2012.