/ 4 June 2011

Key al-Qaeda operative killed by US drone

Senior al-Qaeda operative Ilyas Kashmiri, regarded as one of the most dangerous militants in the world, was killed by a US drone aircraft missile strike in Pakistan, an intelligence official and local media said on Saturday.

The death of the Pakistani militant was another intelligence coup for the United States after US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in a town close to Islamabad on May 2.

“We are sure that he was killed. Now we are trying to retrieve the bodies,” said the Pakistani intelligence official. “We want to get photographs of the bodies.

It is not the first time reports of Kashmiri’s death have surfaced. He was reported to have been killed in a September 2009 strike by a US drone aircraft.

Pakistani media said Kashmiri had been killed this time, citing the group that he heads that is allied with al-Qaeda, Harkat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI).

‘Our only target is America’
“We confirm that our Amir [leader] and commander in chief, Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, along with other companions, was martyred in an American drone strike on June 3 2011, at 11.15pm,” Abu Hanzla Kashir, who identified himself as an HUJI spokesperson, said in a statement faxed to a Pakistani television station.

“God willing … America will very soon see our full revenge. Our only target is America.”

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.

HUJI was behind the March 2006 suicide bombing of the US consulate in Karachi which killed four people and wounded 48, the US State Department said.

Other intelligence officials said earlier that late on Friday night, a remotely piloted US drone aircraft fired three missiles at a militant centre in the village of Shwkainary in South Waziristan, killing a total of eight militants, including five of Kashmiri’s supporters.

The Pakistani Taliban, which has strong ties to al Qaeda, said earlier that reports of Kashmiri’s death were false.

The US Department of State has labelled Kashmiri a “specially designated global terrorist”, adding him to a list of high-profile militants.

In March of last year, the US attorney’s office quoted in a statement a Chicago taxi driver charged with sending money to Kashmiri as saying the Pakistani militant told him he “wanted to train operatives to conduct attacks in the United States”.

The Pakistani media has speculated that Kashmiri was the mastermind of a militant siege of a Pakistani naval base last month which humiliated the Pakistani military.