Ilyas Kashmiri — a profile | Pakistan Today

Ilyas Kashmiri — a profile

Top militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri, who was reportedly killed in a US drone strike late on Friday night, was a senior al-Qaeda operative connected with the Soviet-Afghan War, the Kashmir conflict and attacks against Pakistan, India and the United States.
In August 2010, the United States and the United Nations designated him a terrorist. US officials had mentioned him as a possible successor to Osama bin Laden as head of al Qaeda after bin Laden was killed in a covert military operation by American special forces in Abbottabad on May 2. Kashmiri headed a militant group within al Qaeda that specialises in coordinated multiple strikes on targets.
The US blames him for organising attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and has placed its maximum bounty for a most-wanted target, $5 million, on Kashmiri’s head. In September 2009, Pakistani intelligence officials wrongly claimed that Kashmiri had been killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan. He is widely believed to have masterminded an audacious attack on the PNS Mehran aviation base in Karachi last month.
Kashmiri hailed from the Kotli district of Azad Kashmir. He trained as a member of the elite Pakistani Special Services Group according to some media reports, although he denied this in an interview. He was an active participant in the 1980s Soviet-Afghan War, training the Afghan mujahideen in mine warfare in Miranshah, North Waziristan. During the fighting he lost an eye and an index finger.
He continued his militant work in Kashmir after the war ended as a member of the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), though disagreements with its leader Qari Saifullah Akhtar in 1991, several years after joining the group, led Kashmiri to establish his own new unit within HuJI known as the “313 Brigade”. During the mid-90s Kashmiri and another militant commander Nasrullah Mansoor Langrial were near Poonch when they were seized by the Indian army and sent to prison, where he spent the next two years before escaping and returning to Pakistan.
Upon his return, Kashmiri continued to conduct operations against India. Kashmiri rejected orders to serve under Maulana Masood Azhar in the newly founded militant organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed and was once even targeted by the group. He was even taken into custody in late 2003 by Pakistani security forces in the wake of an attempt to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf. From his February 2004 release until the 2007 siege of Lal Masjid, he apparently did little, but afterwards he returned to the 313 Brigade in the HuJI and rebuilt its strength in collaboration with the Taliban.
This was part of a broader movement of Kashmiri militants moving to Waziristan, and Kashmiri reportedly moved personnel from his Kotli (Kashmir) training camp to a new one in Razmak (North Waziristan). He was accused of organising the December 2009 Camp Chapman attack against the CIA in Khost Afghanistan and the US was seeking his arrest and extradition. In early 2010, Kashmiri was reported to be the new leader of al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil (Shadow Army), following the apparent death of its former leader Abdullah Said al Libi by an American drone.
Kashmiri was also said to have replaced al Qaeda military chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan Mustafa Abu al-Yazid after he was killed in a drone strike on May 21, 2010.

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