Another milestone has reportedly been reached in the U.S.-led fight against global terrorism.
Ilyas Kashmiri, a top al-Qaida terrorist, is presumed dead after a drone strike in Pakistan last month.
One senior official reported to CNN that he is “99 percent sure” that the terrorist is dead but that "the folks that make that determination aren't ready to say so definitively."
One of the reasons for the cautious attitude is that Kashmiri has been reported dead before, only to reveal himself again in an interview in which he threatened the West.
Kashmiri’s men said last month that he had been killed by a night drone strike in South Waziristan on June 4th. Pakistan reported nine dead, but did not identify Kashmiri as one. Since then, the U.S. has analyzed human and electronic intelligence and is now more confident that he was among the dead.
Kashmiri was a former Pakistani Army commando who had gone rogue, making him a dangerous terrorist leader. He adopted al-Qaida’s philosophy of attacking westerners and became a major figure within the al-Qaida organization.
Each top figure seemingly had their own roles within al-Qaida: bin Laden was the “spiritual” leader, al-Zawahiri was the philosopher, and Kashmiri was, as one U.S. official described to CNN, the “key ingredient in the bad stew of senior terrorists.” Kashmiri was thought to be a possible successor to the late bin Laden.
On August 6, 2010, Kashmiri was blacklisted by the U.S. and the U.N. as a terrorist suspect.
Kashmiri is the third top al-Qaida leader to be announced dead in the past two months. Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. Navy Seals in May; and the other, Fazul Abdullah Mohammad, a senior al Qaida operative in East Africa, was killed by the Somali government on June 7.
“The elimination of Kashmiri, so close on the heels of the bin Laden operation, will put al-Qaida and its affiliate organizations on the run, making it more difficult for them to plot, train, and attract recruits and funding. The drone strikes have proven to be one of the best tools in the U.S. arsenal against terrorist targets in Pakistan,” Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told The Christian Post.
“Until Pakistan demonstrates it is capable of controlling its own territory and preventing terrorists from finding sanctuary there, the U.S. will have to rely on drone strikes and other sophisticated technology to address the terrorist threat in the country.”
Kashmiri was born in the Pakistan territory of Kashmir in 1964. He is considered a veteran jihadist due to his early experience fighting with the anti-Indian militants and later fighting the Russians in Afghanistan where he lost an eye. He created the terrorist group, Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami (Islamic Holy War), in the early 1990s.
He had claimed the title of the mastermind behind the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. During this attack, hotels and other public places in Mumbai were raided by gunman, leaving 164 dead. It was also suspected that he was planning to send more terrorists to Europe to carry out similar missions.
Kasmiri was also charged in 2010 by a U.S. federal court in Illinois for his involvement with an alleged conspiracy to murder staffers of the Danish newspaper that had published the controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2005. The U.S., however, was able to foil the attack before it materialized.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, an Islamabad journalist killed in May, was one of the few people who actually met Kashmiri in 2009. CNN reports that in Shahzad’s book, "Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond bin Laden and 9/11," which was published right after his death, he described meeting a “tall, well-built man with a firm handshake.”
Shahzad asked him whether the world should expect more Mumbai-style attacks.
"That was nothing compared to what has already been planned for India in the future," Kashmiri replied.