ISLAMABAD: Fresh questions have emerged about the June 3, 2011 killing of the al-Qaeda linked Pakistani jihadi leader, Commander Ilyas Kashmiri, with the release of yet another propaganda video by Ustad Ahmad Farooq, another jihadi Pakistani commander and al-Qaeda’s media chief who had been killed along with Kashmiri in a US drone strike in Wana which killed nine people.
One June 4, 2011, a day after the June 3 US drone strike, a spokesman for Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade (of the Harkatul Jihadul Islami) claimed that Ustad Ahmad Farooq was one of nine militants who were killed in the US drone attack along with Ilyas Kashmiri.
In the second video released in a span of four months since his supposed killing in a drone attack, Ustad Ahmad Farooq, al-Qaeda top spokesman and head of ‘Islamic Propagation for Pakistan’, urged Muslims to murder anyone who commits blasphemy. He praised the killers of the former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti as “lions of Islam”.
In his previous video released in August 2011, Ustad Ahmad Farooq had eulogized Osama bin Laden in the wake of his May 2 killing in a US raid. On the videotape, Farooq has condemned the Pakistani state for betraying the terror group and allied organizations. Carrying images of Osama, the videotape was titled, ‘With such an elevated status, they met Allah’. “The Pakistani armed forces and its intelligence agencies have betrayed the Ummah, the religion and the global jihadi movement”, so said Ahmad Farooq in the video.
But the release of Farooq’s second video is significant given the fact that al- Qaeda has previously not released propaganda by any of its leaders who are dead, without first announcing their deaths. No statements indicating Farooq’s death accompanied the video, meaning thereby that he is still alive and the same could be the case with Kashmiri. In fact, al-Qaeda never released an official martyrdom statement about the deaths of either Kashmiri or Farooq, as it does whenever a key leader of the terrorist organization is killed.
Abu Hanzla Kashir, who identified himself as the spokesman of the HUJI, did release a signed statement claiming that Kashmiri had been killed. But Kashir’s claim was immediately questioned due to discrepancies in the statement and the fake photo of Kashmiri, which was posted on a web site.
Keeping in view the discrepancies with the pictures, the statement released by the HuJI spokesman and in the absence of a DNA report, it was hard for Pakistani investigators to believe that Ilyas Kashmiri had been killed.
They believed instead that the HuJI statement may have been issued to deceive those who were out to hunt him down. In the past, Ilyas Kashmiri had been pronounced dead twice in the space of a week — on September 7 and September 14, 2009, after US drones targeted his compounds in Turikhel village near Mir Ali town of North Waziristan.
Yet, hardly a month after his reported death he re-surfaced and promised retribution against the US 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,” Kashmiri observed.
Therefore, the lack of a statement from al-Qaeda confirming his death, the bogus photograph posted on a website and press reports give wriggle room to chances that Ilyas Kashmiri might have cheated the drones once again.