Confirming Kashmiri’s death: US uncertainty reigns as drone strikes continue

Published: June 7, 2011

At least 18 killed in three US missile attacks in South Waziristan.

PESHAWAR: 

As fresh doubts emerged on whether dreaded militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri had been killed in a US drone strike last week in South Waziristan, the tribal region continued to be pounded by pilotless US aircraft – with as many as three strikes being reported on Monday.

At least 18 militants are said to have been killed in the blitz.

First, the Pentagon declared that it has ‘no confirmation’ of most-wanted militant Ilyas Kashmiri’s death in a drone strike on Friday.

“We have no confirmation that he’s dead,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters during an off-camera daily briefing when asked about news reports coming from Pakistan that Kashmiri, the chief of the dreaded 313 Brigade of the Harkatul Jihad al Islami, which has been blamed for a number of high-profile terror strikes in Pakistan, has been killed.

“The Department of Defence has no confirmation (on the death of Kashmiri),” he noted.

The sentiment was echoed by another official of the Department of Defence while speaking to AFP in Kabul. He requested not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter.

However, ABC News, quoting US intelligence officials, later said that Kashmiri’s death had been confirmed.

Two senior US officials told ABC News Kashmiri was among the dead, but before the attack US intelligence officials did not know whether Kashmiri would be at the target location – only that some members of his group were sleeping outside in an orchard.

The officials would not discuss how they confirmed  Kashmiri was among the more than a dozen people who perished in the strike.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik had earlier said on Sunday that he was “98 per cent” sure that Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed in a US drone attack before midnight on Friday in South Waziristan.

This is not the first time that controversy has surrounded the death of the hardened militant. Kashmiri had already been declared dead a few years ago by officials, only to reemerge.

Monday’s strikes

A volley of fresh strikes by CIA-operated pilot-less aircraft took place around Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan Agency, on Monday.

The first two attacks targeted a suspected militants’ compound and a vehicle in Bermal sub-division.

“First, a US drone fired missiles at a house belonging to a local tribesman, Zari Khan Shamshikhel, in the Shalam Raghzai area, killing five people,” an official source told The Express Tribune. He said all the dead were ‘Punjabi Taliban.’ “Then another pilot-less aircraft targeted another compound in the Wacha Dana area, killing eight militants,” the source said. “The area is some two kilometres away from the site of the first attack.”

The third attack took place eight hours later in the Dray Nishtar area, which lies on the border with North Waziristan at 10:45 am, about 30 kilometres from the site of the other two raids.

“A US drone fired two missiles on a vehicle (believed to be carrying) militants, killing three insurgents,” a senior security official told AFP. He added that the dead were ‘Punjabi Taliban’ from the group of Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, which is based in North Waziristan Agency.

Security officials said that five militants of central Asian origin and eight Punjabi militants were among those killed in the three strikes.

‘Revenge strikes’

Meanwhile, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an outlawed conglomerate of militant outfits, said they have delivered on threats to avenge the killing of their ideological chief Osama bin Laden – and promised more is to come.

In a video message to Reuters, Omar Khalid Khorasani, TTP commander in Mohmand Agency, said that they struck back to avenge the terror icon’s killing – claiming responsibility for incidents in which militants bombed an American consulate convoy in Peshawar, laid siege to PNS Mehran in Karachi and blew up paramilitary cadets in Pakistan in Shabqadar.

“These attacks were just a part of our revenge. God willing, the world will see how we avenge Osama bin Laden’s martyrdom,” he told Reuters in a video message. “We have networks in several countries outside Pakistan.”

The video starts with him and some associates sitting on the floor of a mud-walled house, eating mango slices and joking. Then he turns serious and speaks about the TTP’s intentions.

“Our war against America is continuing inside and outside of Pakistan. When we launch attacks, it will prove that we can hit American targets outside Pakistan,” said Khorasani.

Sitting with a pistol strapped to his waist and flanked by two of his comrades with AK-47 assault rifles, Khorasani said the death of Bin Laden would not demoralise the Taliban. It had in fact, injected a ‘new courage’ into its fighters, said Khorasani.

“The ideology given to us by Osama bin Laden and the spirit and courage that he gave to us to fight infidels of the world is alive,” said Khorasani. He described Ayman al-Zawahri as the Pakistani Taliban’s ‘chief and supreme leader’.

While the US has been trying to engage the Taliban in dialogue to restore peace in Afghanistan, Khorasani said, “Even if some rapprochement is reached in Afghanistan, our ideology, aim and objective is to change the system in Pakistan.”

With additional input from wires

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2011.

Reader Comments (19)

  • Mirza
    Jun 7, 2011 - 7:43AM

    Keep trying. Hopefully all the top terrorists would be shown hell while still alive before they actually go to reall hell for ever. Recommend

  • Jun 7, 2011 - 9:09AM

    It will be a shame if after 100% confirmation by Rehman Malik suddenly USA again captures or kills Kashmiri, —————this time living close to GHQ.The only fools in this game are us people.Why confirm when our “ally” keeps calling us liars and there is no DNA proof to confirm?If he is alive we will know soon enough,if not good riddance.Recommend

  • Unimpressed
    Jun 7, 2011 - 9:29AM

    “What are we preparing the Army for? To defend Islam or Pakistan?” Recommend

  • Asim+Ali
    Jun 7, 2011 - 9:56AM

    What a nation we have become. Terrorists, Al Qaida, bombings, suicide attacks are hitting the headlines daily . What a sad state of affairs. Is this what the country was destined to become? Is this Jinnah’s Pakistan? We are caught in a spiral and media is part of this vicious spiral. The country lacks leadership and media is not projecting future leaders. Quit with this sadistic hourly headline and start projecting the proud of this nation. Recommend

  • Pan Mat
    Jun 7, 2011 - 9:58AM

    But our esteemed Interior Minister, Mr. Rehman Malil, is “98% or ninety eight percent” sure that Kashmiri has been killed! US has to pay attention to information that exists with interior minister of a sovereign state.Recommend

  • Jehangir
    Jun 7, 2011 - 11:04AM

    Why not declare “Drone” as the official bird of Pakistan?
    The Army is too scared to go into North Waziristan and so the drone is doing the policing.Recommend

  • R S JOHAR
    Jun 7, 2011 - 11:17AM

    I am sure, Pakistanis would have realised by now that its not drones or US but the TTP and other terrorists outfits who are threatening the sovereignity of Pakistan and even made their intentions clear to rule the country.Recommend

  • Jun 7, 2011 - 11:42AM

    Vienna,07-06-2011
    The joke is that some one need to get the cash reward with out being sure that
    the target is hit and destroyed. There is then faked website photo as proof. Is that
    the way to improve trust accumulation? Who can be sure that Ilyas Kashmiri has
    not been shifted as “strategic asset” to a safe house in Islamabad or Rawalpindi?
    All secure sovereign areas. After all he was to have been succeeding O/Usama
    Bin Laden.
    -Kulamarva Balakrishna Recommend

  • wasim younis
    Jun 7, 2011 - 11:59AM

    it puzzles me when someone says that drone attacks are destroying pakistan. Are we even aware that we have hundreds of terrorists who are living in the fata region and our government has no writ in that area? so the only solution i see is drone attacks. atleast every time a drone strikes we get to hear a certain militant has died. Recommend

  • zardari-thebitch
    Jun 7, 2011 - 12:01PM

    Lets get rid of this army and maybe we could use that money to generate electricity, because we are not safe anyway…Recommend

  • Udaya Bose
    Jun 7, 2011 - 12:15PM

    @Asim+Ali:
    Is this Jinnah’s Pakistan?
    Pray tell us what “Jinnah’s Pakistan” is.
    I have yet to hear a clear definition of this catch-all term.Recommend

  • Kasim
    Jun 7, 2011 - 1:28PM

    @Udaya Bose: That was lost in 1948. If any one finds it, please don’t bring back and throw it away in Indian Ocean. Enough is enough.Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    Jun 7, 2011 - 1:46PM

    Just keep firing missiles from drones and no doubt, there will be success, as the law of averages are in favour of drone strikes, as the partner in this ” war on terror ” are unlikelt to take any course of action at present as they are too busy with their heads stuck in sand !! With their denails or even acknowledging that a problem exists!!!! Recommend

  • Aftab
    Jun 7, 2011 - 1:57PM

    It does not matter if he is actually killed or not. The thing which matters is that if declaring his death, at this point, has some real benefit for Americans or not? Americans will declare him dead when they will think it’s appropriate for them. These are “known” war tactics. May be they want to keep pressure on Pakistan so they are not accepting that they have got rid of him, “Pakistan needs to do more” to catch Kashmiri etc. Remember Kashmiri was one of the 5 persons demanded by US after OBL death.Recommend

  • vasan
    Jun 7, 2011 - 3:20PM

    I think US will be advised to take a door to door census in Abbotabad to find out Ilyas Kashmiri is dead or not. I have a strange feeling somebody is playing a double game again in Pakistan protecting this animal called Ilyas Kashmiri.Recommend

  • Chilli
    Jun 7, 2011 - 4:08PM

    Killing all civillians seems the right attitude of killing terrorists. Our rulers proved to be hollow and coward. If you cant catch the terrorists, give US keys of Pakistan and go to sleep.Recommend

  • Jun 7, 2011 - 5:18PM

    Heard,interior minister said,United States should provide or will provide drone technology to Pakistan.
    It is wrong,United states will never provide the technology as above-stated.
    Pakistan,many time insisted on it but received no reply in positive.
    Pakistan,on many occasion requested American government not to strike drone in the tribal areas but the bloody attacks are continued.
    It is an well settled that United States will never provide drone technology to Pakistan,notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan is a front line ally of the United States in the war on terror.

    Before this,
    United States has refused to provide Pakistan civil nuclear technology and it is a fact that the same has been given to India,as have seen American state depart give preference to India in so many matters.In spite of a power crisis Pakistan is still deprived of the civil technology.

    As for Ilyas Kashmiri is concerned,
    no doubt he has died in the result of drone attack,
    he was seriously injured during the attack and his follows tried their best to save him but failed,according to the independent reliable sources.

    In fact,
    United States want more such attacks,so don’t want to absolutely confirmed the death of Kashmiri because justification is indispensable for more attacks.Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    Jun 7, 2011 - 6:13PM

    @Sultan Ahmed:
    The US will never trust Pakistan with Drone technology, as they know from experiance that everything that they given to Pak so their War on terror Project has only ended up on eastern front and not where it should be used ! They are well aware of Pak Army’s billing policy for exoenses incurred in this project, which simply is classed as Fraud on monumental scale !!!
    The only thing that Pak Army has done being the front line ally is to twidle its thumbs or clasping them hands around their backs!!!
    If they were really Front Line Ally, then why has no action being taken in NW??
    The answer is simple ! They know that thet really do not want to take out any networks that are operating in the region, as their Money supply line will stop as soon as the region returns to Normalcy, hence they simply can not have that!!Recommend

  • sharma
    Jun 7, 2011 - 7:01PM

    He is the same person who took the head of 1 indian officer and was given by heros welcome by musharraf (then president of pakistan)with millions of prize money.The same person is the only pakistani who has killed 2 generals of india and few brigadiers in kashmir bomb blast[no one can do that in any of the wars]

    Once i read about such persons,I feel pathetic that how did india allow musharraf to come to india.

    India must never trust pakistan ,since we know what it has given us in return.

    We will continue to build up arms,keep siachin disputes unsolved to give them pay back !!Recommend

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