Taking any single figure out of the picture will only do so much in what is an ideological war, but this is nonetheless newsworthy. Since Ilyas Kashmiri was a major operational planner for al-Qaeda, one may hope this strike is a major disruption for al-Qaeda and yields valuable intelligence on plans, tactics, places, names, and aliases. First, an unusual headline: “Top jihadist leader killed, followers say,” from CNN, June 4:
(CNN) — The man described by counterterrorism officials as al Qaeda’s “military brain,” Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed in a drone strike Friday night in Pakistan, a spokesman for his group, the jihadist Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami, said.
Pakistani and U.S. officials, however, said they have not confirmed Kashmiri’s death.
Kashmiri was killed, along with some aides, in a strike at 11:15 p.m., spokesman Abu Hanzla Kashar said.
“The oppressor U.S. is our only target and, God willing, we will take revenge on the U.S. soon with full force,” he said.
A senior Pakistani military official said that in all, nine were killed by the drone strike. The official reiterated that they had not confirmed Kashmiri’s demise.
Kashmiri, who was known to operate in North Waziristan, had moved to South Waziristan and was seen at the site of the attack on Friday, the official said.
If confirmed, his death would be the first major kill or capture since Osama Bin Laden, and the highest profile drone target since Beitullah Mehsud in 2009.
It could also be seen as an embarrassment for Pakistanis, who have twice in just over one month, had a major al Qaeda figure killed on their territory without their participation.
U.S. drones now operate entirely autonomously in Pakistan, a Pakistani intelligence source has told CNN. Whereas before the United States cooperated with Pakistan and used their intelligence, today, the Americans have an intelligence network that allows them to go after terrorists unilaterally.
Kashmiri, a veteran jihadist, is considered one of the most dangerous men in the world by counterterrorism officials on three continents.
He was commander of “Brigade 313” of Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami, which has formed a close relationship with al Qaeda.
Kashmiri is also said to have ties with David Coleman Headley, the U.S. citizen who confessed to helping scout targets for the Mumbai attack in November 2008. After his arrest, Headley said he had twice met Kashmiri.
And, giving new meaning to “gunpowder tea”: “US strike ‘kills’ key Pakistan militant Ilyas Kashmiri,” from BBC News, June 4:
One of Pakistan’s most senior militants has been killed in a US drone strike, locals and officials say.
Officials confirmed reports from locals that Ilyas Kashmiri had died in the overnight strike in the tribal region of South Waziristan. […]
Locals and witnesses told the BBC Urdu Service that the militants had only recently moved into the area around Laman village, south-east of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.
Kashmiri and his men were said to be taking tea in an apple orchard when the attack occurred.
Locals say two rounds of two missiles each were fired within a space of a few seconds.
An unnamed Pakistani official later confirmed to the BBC that Kashmiri was among those killed. …