ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday that although he had no physical proof, he was “98 per cent sure” that senior al Qaeda operative Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan.
US officials in Washington were sceptical over reports that Kashmiri was dead.
Kashmiri, who was chief of the so-called ‘313 Brigade’ of Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) militant group, was killed in a missile strike by a CIA-operated pilot-less aircraft in the Karikot area of South Waziristan on Friday.
A US National Security official said he could not confirm that he had been killed and another US official said it was doubtful.
“All ground intelligence shows that he is dead. What I can say is there is a 98 per cent chance he is dead,” Malik told Reuters.
“Since we do not have the body, we do not have DNA we need to confirm. This is the substantive evidence we are looking for,” he added.
Separately, speaking to the media in Quetta, Malik ruled out the existence of the ‘Quetta Shura’ which is said to be operating out of Quetta. Malik said as many as 30 sites were raided on secret information but there was no evidence that the Shura existed. “[Elements] who claim that Quetta Shura exists must provide evidence or information to government,” he said.
The minister also insisted that “foreign hands” were involved in creating the law and order situation in Balochistan.
Asked to explain the deaths of 700 people in incidents of targeted killings and the recovery of 200 bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch missing persons, Malik said that ‘anti-social elements’ were involved in the killings and dumping of the bodies.
He also claimed that as of now, there were only 38 people missing and efforts were being made to trace them.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHEHZAD BALOCH IN QUETTA)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2011.