Potential al-Qaida Successor Killed in U.S. Airstrike

One of the most wanted terrorist militants in the world has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region late Friday night, June 3, 2011.

Ilyas Kashmiri, the leader of terrorist group “Harkatul Jihad al-Islami” was among nine killed during the U.S. airstrike. His death has been confirmed Saturday by the militant group itself.

Abu Hanzala, a spokesman for the terror group, confirmed the death of Kashmiri, who is believed to have been responsible for the attack on a naval air station in Karachi last month, which killed 10 Pakistan navy personnel.

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Kashmiri was considered one of the most dangerous and highly trained Pakistani militants, allied with Al Qaida. He was a former member of Pakistan’s special forces, the Special Services Group. He has also been implicated in the terrorist attack on Mumbai, India, in 2008, in which 163 people were killed, including some American citizens.

"We confirm the martyrdom of our leader Ilyas Kashmiri in U.S. drone strike," the spokesman said in a hand-written statement sent to local media.

The statement added: "We will take revenge of our leader on the U.S.”

Kashmiri was among the five most wanted terrorists, whose names were given to Pakistani authorities by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Islamabad in May.

Kashmiri had previously worked as a Pakistani Army trainer of Afghan mujahedeen fighters, and he lost an eye battling Russian forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

However, Kashmiri later turned against the state after President Pervez Musharraf banned his group after the Sept. 11 attacks. He was arrested four years later in connection with an attempted assassination of Mr. Musharraf in December 2003, but released due to a lack of evidence.

Kashmiri had also been touted by commentators as a potential successor to the Osama bin Laden as al-Qaida chief.

The strike comes just days following a new agreement between Pakistan and the U.S. to form a joint intelligence network to hunt down the list of most wanted terrorists, including Ilyas Kashmiri, Mullah Mohammad Omar, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Atiya Abdur Rahman and Sirajuddin Haqqani.

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