On the one hand, well-placed sources both militants from multiple outfits and local government officials are persistently confirming his death in a June 3rd drone’s strike. On the other hand, a leading Pakistani news channel, quoting anonymous sources within Pakistani and US intelligence, claimed recently that Kashmiri is not only alive but also spearheading his violent campaign in the Pak-Afghan border region.
In a statement to local media Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, in late 40s, was declared dead by his own group Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI) in the June 3rd CIA operated drone’s strike in the outskirts of South Waziristan tribal area's main town of Wana. A local government official also confirmed his death in the said drone attack.
“I am fully confident that Kashmiri has been killed. All evidence suggests that he is no more,” He told Asia Despatch on condition of anonymity.
Ilyas Kashmiri was the commander of the 313 Brigade of HUJI. He is alleged to have orchestrated some of the most devastating attacks on Pakistani military installations across the country. These include the October 2009 attack on army headquarters in the northern garrison city of Rawalpindi and the siege of the Pakistani naval base in Karachi on May 22nd.
The Karachi naval base attack left scores of security personnel dead and inflicted severe damage on the operational strength of Pakistan’s navy by destroying two of its US-made P-3C Orion aircrafts and partially damaging a third one.
“I have his eyeglasses. Our Emir (leader) has left this mortal world. Why are you doubting his death?” said a reliable militant source from Wana in a recent interview. Another source further revealed that meetings of HUJI’s Shura council are underway to nominate Kashmiri’s successor.
The reports of Kashmiri’s death are further endorsed by Al-Qaeda’s recent publication Nawai Afghan Jihad. The latest issue published a eulogy paying tribute to the commander and vowing to continue his mission. Another militant source has also confirmed his death and even claimed to have been personally present at his funeral. “I buried him with my own hands. So there is nothing left to be doubtful about,” the unnamed source said in an interview.
However, leading security analysts have doubted the authenticity of HUJI’s statement regarding Kashmiri’s death because the official HUJI’s logo was missing. Traditionally, militants avoid instant confirmation of their commanders’ deaths until a new leader has been appointed in order to avoid possible disarray in militants’ ranks.
The US State Department declared Kashmiri a “specially designated global terrorist,” adding him to a list of high-ranking global militants.