LAHORE: While the al-Qaeda high command has appointed an Egyptian Jihadi Saif Al-Adal as the military chief of the terror outfit to supervise operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it has re-designated a Pakistani Jihadi Commander Ilyas Kashmiri as the group’s military strategist to plan and spearhead the terrorist attacks against the West.
According to well-informed sources in the Pakistani security establishment, Ilyas Kashmiri, who is also the Ameer of the Azad Kashmir chapter of the Harkatul Jihadul Islami (HUJI), had been made the chief of al-Qaeda’s military operations for the region following the May 21, 2010, death of Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, its ex-operational chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an American drone strike in North Waziristan. Yazid used to greatly admire Kashmiri’s tactical and guerilla skills and had left a recorded audio message before his death, on the basis of which Kashmiri was elevated as the operational chief of al-Qaeda. Yazid’s posthumous
audiotape was released by al-Qaeda’s media wing on June 15, 2010, wherein he had referred to Kashmiri as an official part of al-Qaeda, adding that terror attacks should now be carried out inside the United States. Yazid also claimed in the same tape that al-Qaeda’s Kashmir faction led by Ilyas had carried out the February 13, 2010 bombing of the German Bakery in the Pune city of India, which killed 17 people, including two foreigners.
However, since al-Qaeda’s former military chief Saif Al-Adal has returned to the battlefield after being freed by the Iranian government in exchange for the release an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2008, Ilyas Kashmiri has now been re-designated and assigned with the most difficult and challenging task of carrying out terror attacks in the West. Informed sources in the Pakistani security establishment say Kashmiri has been tasked to target the West keeping in view his global Jihadi links and a well-entrenched network of deep-cover agents in Europe and America.
Kashmiri is also a prime example of the increasing partnership between Osama-led al-Qaeda, Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and the Jihadi groups active in the Indian-administered Jammu Kashmir — all of whom have assembled in the Waziristan region on the Pak-Afghan tribal belt. And Kashmiri is believed to be well placed to exploit this growing cooperation, which has augmented al-Qaeda’s capacity to launch major terror attacks against the US and its Western allies.
Ilyas Kashmiri is considered brutal and goal-oriented just like his Egyptian partner Saif Al Adel, who has substantial experience cooperating with other anti-US militant groups. While Saif has served as a Colonel in the Special Forces of the Egyptian Army, there are unconfirmed reports that Kashmiri used to be a part of the Special Services Group of the Pakistan Army in the 1990s. He is on the American radar since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in which several US nationals were also killed. Originally, a product of the Pakistani establishment which had nurtured him to wage Jihad in Jammu & Kashmir, Kashmiri eventually fell out of favour with his spymasters when he refused to serve under the command of a junior Jihadi-Maulana Masood Azhar, who had just founded the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in early 2001 after being released from an Indian jail in the wake of an Indian plane hijacking.
Following the Lal Masjid military action in 2007, he moved his operational base from his home town Kotli to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to become a part of the Afghan Taliban-led resistance against the Nato forces in Afghanistan.
Since then, he has emerged as a new international Jihadi plotter who is described by terrorism experts as the key man linking al-Qaeda with Western recruits and trying to infiltrate highly trained terrorists into Europe and the United States to launch Mumbai style terrorist attacks. Some recent findings by Western intelligence agencies say Ilyas Kashmiri is a key facilitator in al-Qaeda’s plan to carry out Mumbai-style commando attacks in Europe, mainly in Germany, France, and England. He has already established himself as the captain of al-Qaeda’s shadow army — Lashkar-e-Zil (LeZ), which is a loose alliance of al-Qaeda-and Taliban-linked anti-US militia. The Zil has distinguished itself by conducting unusual guerilla operations, like the one that targeted the CIA’s Forward Operating Base in Khost on December 31, 2009, that killed seven CIA officials.
Besides being the Ameer of his own faction of the HUJI, the military strategist of al-Qaeda and the chief of the LeZ, Kashmiri is also the commander of Brigade 313, which is made up of the Taliban and allied Jihadi groups. Members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Harkatul Jihadul Islami (HUJI), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Jundullah, and several other Pakistani militant groups are known to have merged with al-Qaeda in Pakistan, and the group operates under the name of Brigade 313.
Interestingly, the Brigade 313 also has a website whose landing page has the words “al-Qaeda Brigade 313” in the centre, in addition to inscribing the names of Harkatul Jihadul Islami, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, and the Movement of Pakistani Taliban in the four corners of the page.
Further surfing of the website would show images of slain al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Yazid and ideologue Abu Yahya al-Libi on the left side of the page, and an image of commander Ilyas Kashmiri on the far right.
The brigade has been behind many high-profile terror attacks inside Pakistan, including the October 2009 commando assault at the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi. The GHQ attack was carried out after an American drone targeted Kashmiri and reportedly killed him in North Waziristan on September 14, 2009.
Yet, hardly a month after his reported death, Kashmiri resurfaced and promised retribution against the United States and its proxies, saying the Americans were right to pursue him. “They know their enemy quite well. They know what I am really up to,” Ilyas Kashmiri had observed in an interview. In August 2010, the United Nations and the United States tagged him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his involvement in terrorist activities.