This just in from points across the sea. Predator drones struck again, this time in South Waziristan, and served a rather abrupt pink slip to the terrorism career of Ilyas Kashmiri, according to a report from The Long War Journal. The rapidly cooling subject is described as, “one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous military commanders and strategists, the leader of the Harkat-ul Jihad Islami and al Qaeda’s Brigade 313.”
Kashmiri is said to be one of nine member of the al Qaeda-linked Harkat-ul Jihad Islami, or HUJI, who was killed in yesterday’s Predator airstrike that leveled a compound in the Wana area of South Waziristan. A Harkat-ul Jihad Islami spokesman told Dawn that Kashmiri was killed in the attack.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that Kashmiri was indeed a target of the attack, however they could not confirm he was killed.
“HUJI’s statement is a sure sign we got him, we are pretty confident he is dead but we cannot confirm 100 percent,” one official told The Long War Journal.
Huge is the only word to describe it. Our military has been on a roll lately, no doubt. No confirmation yet if this came as a result of intelligence gleaned from the bin Laden compound, but we really don’t need to know that anyway.
…I’m not ashamed to admit (well, a little ashamed) that I audibly gasped when I saw the news about this on TV this morning. Take five minutes to read two background pieces on Kashmiri so that you fully understand what a big deal this is. The first is Newsweek’s profile of him from October of last year, quoting one American agent as saying, “This guy ties everybody together.” And if the intel on him is correct, that assessment was true: Kashmiri may have had a hand in the Mumbai terror mega-attack and was suspected of organizing operations in Europe, the UK, the U.S., and of course India. He was also supposedly a key liaison to Al Qaeda recruits from western countries. He was, in other words, an operational linchpin, which is why he’d been hunted relentlessly by American and Pakistani agents for years. In fact, we tried to kill him with a drone strike once before and thought we’d succeeded — until Kashmiri surfaced and gave a gloating interview to a reporter. Follow that last link and you’ll find a U.S. official claiming that Kashmiri was “likely involved in every major terrorist attack in Pakistan in the last two years. He is a major player.” That was Kashmiri’s status as of 2009; his stature had only grown since.
The other piece to read is Michael Isikoff’s analysis from a few weeks ago speculating that Kashmiri, not Zawahiri, would be named the new leader of Al Qaeda simply because he’s so much more important to the group’s actual operations.