Al-Qaida has appointed Ilyas Kashmiri as its chief military strategist, according to an Indian news report. A former commander in the Pakistani military's Special Services Group, Kashmiri heads the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami, or HuJI ("Movement of Islamic Holy War"). He has been tied to several terrorist attacks in India, including the bombing of a German Bakery in the Indian city of Pune in February that killed nine people, including two foreigners, and wounded at least 60 others.
Kashmiri replaces Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan in May. In a tape released by al-Qaida's media wing in May, Yazid had praised Kashmiri's combat skills and appointed him his successor in the event of his death, the report said.
Kashmiri is expected to launch increased attacks in the region and against the West. He is suspected of being behind the suicide bomb attack on a secret CIA base in the eastern Afghan province of Khost in December that killed at least eight Americans. He is also part of two significant terrorism indictments issued in Chicago. In January, Kashmiri was added as a defendant in an indictment filed against American Lashkar operative David Coleman Headley for his role in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The attacks killed 166 people, including six Americans. Kashmiri allegedly also worked with Headley in a plot to attack the offices of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten and kill two of its employees—an editor and a cartoonist. A separate and unrelated indictment in March charged Pakistan-born Chicago cab driver Raja Lahrasib Khan with attempting to send money to Kashmiri to support al-Qaida's terrorist activities.
Kashmiri's appointment marks the growing alliance between al-Qaida, the Taliban and Kashmir-focused groups in Pakistan and the lawless tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The collaboration has bolstered al-Qaida's ability to launch large-scale attacks against the U.S. and its allies in the region and abroad.
To read a full IPT expose on Kashmiri, click here.