An 'operational commander' allied with al-Qaida was reported killed in a drone strike Friday in the tribal areas of Pakistan, according to the nation's interior minister and a statement from the terrorist organization. Ilyas Kashmiri's militia pledged revenge for the attack, the second major strike on al-Qaida in as many months.
"On behalf of Harkatat ul-Jihad al-Islami 313 Brigade we confirm the fact that our leader and Commander-in-chief Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, along with other companions, have been martyred in an American drone attack at 11:15 pm on June 3, 2011," declared a statement from his militia. "Insha Allah [Allah willing] the present pharaoh America will see our full revenge very soon. Our only target is America."
The Taliban made similar threats of vengeance for the "martyrdom" of the terrorist leader. "We lost our hero finally. He was the hero of Islam, Kashmir and Afghanistan," Taliban commander Qari Idrees told reporters in a broken voice.
Kashmiri had been responsible for plotting a variety of attacks, ranging from the 2008 Mumbai massacre to a plan to strike drone-making American company Lockheed-Martin. His also participated in a 2006 bombing on the U.S. consulate in Karachi and a January 2010 plot to bomb a Danish newspaper that published Muhammad cartoons.
In August 2010, he was declared a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" by the State Department, and had been known for his trademark aviator-style sunglasses which masked a missing eye. The United States also put a $5 million bounty for information leading to his location.
Self-confessed Mumbai plotter David Coleman Headley testified in federal court last week that he had researched details about Lockheed Martin and its CEO for Kashmiri, who was enraged by American predator strikes in Pakistan and wanted to attack the U.S. defense contractor in retaliation.
Headley is the key prosecution witness in the ongoing terrorism trial of a Chicago businessman, Tahawuur Hussain Rana. He used Rana's immigration office in Mumbai as a cover to scout for targets for the Mumbai attacks for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT). Headley has pleaded guilty to his role in the attacks and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators to avoid the death penalty.
Kashmiri, along with other Lashkar militants and officers from Pakistan's military spy agency, the ISI, are co-defendants in the case.
The success of the strike is being measured against public outrage in Pakistan, which objects to American counterterrorism efforts on its soil. Relations with the Pakistani military have also soured over the killing of Osama bin Laden, who had been hiding for years just a few hundred meters away from Pakistan's elite military academy.
India, a victim of Pakistan's reluctance to deal with domestic terrorists, saluted the killing of Kashmiri. "Kashmiri's death (in a US drone attack) will affect the terrorist infrastructure across the border and it will have a significant effect here," India's state inspector general of police SM Sahai told the Hindustan Times.
Click here for more on Kashmiri.