Banned terror group Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) — closely associated with the al Qaeda — confirmed on Saturday its commander-in-chief, Ilyas Kashmiri, had been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan’s South Waziristan.
One of the most dangerous militants in the world, Kashmiri was a key planner of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
A fax to the media from a person claiming to be a HuJI spokesperson said, “We confirm our amir (leader), Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, along with other companions, was martyred in an American drone strike on June 3, 2011, at 11.15pm… God willing, America will soon see our full revenge.”
Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani didn’t confirm the death, saying his government was still verifying the details, but added, “If he is dead, it is good news for Pakistan.”
In Delhi, an official source said, “We are still verifying it. If it is true, it’s a major development. It should be noted that the killing took place in Pakistan and he was a wanted man here.”Earlier in the day, a report on BBC Urdu's website stated that Kashmiri had been killed along with eight others.
Later, Geo TV updated the toll to nine and said three were seriously injured. At the time of the attack, Kashmiri was reportedly having tea in the garden of the compound that was targeted.
Analyst Saleem Safi said Kashmiri's death was a "victory for Pakistan's security establishment as he was believed to have been the mastermind behind this month's attack on a naval airbase in Karachi" that left 10 people dead.
Safi said Kashmiri was also involved in a number of attacks on Pakistan's military. In addition, the US held his outfit responsible for the 2006 suicide bombing of its consulate in Karachi.
In Delhi, former Intelligence Bureau joint director MK Dhar said, "It's a key moment in the fight against terror … Kashmiri was trained and supported by the ISI and he was close to many in the military establishment there,"
"He was a high value target killed in Pakistan… He enjoyed patronage in Pakistan from where he could operate with impunity. This shows how Pakistan created the monster of terrorism, providing sustenance to it," said strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney.
(Inputs from HTC Delhi and agencies)