September 17, 2009 4:31:22 pm
Two top al-Qaeda-linked militant commanders,including HuJI’s Ilyas Kashmiri,were believed killed in recent American drone attacks in Pakistan’s restive tribal belt.
Besides Kashmiri,Uzbek terrorist leader Nazimuddin Kamolitdinovich Jalolov was killed in the missiles fired by the American drones,US officials believe.
While Kashmiri,a Pakistani national who led Harkat-ul-Jihad Al-Islami’s (HuJI) operations in Jammu and Kashmir in early 1990s,was believed killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan on September 7,the Uzbek suspected to have died on September 14,US officials were quoted as saying by Pakistani and international media.
Unnamed US intelligence officials said in Washington on Wednesday that the reported deaths of the two militant commanders further established the effectiveness of strikes by American drones.
Around 500 militants are believed to have been killed in 56 attacks by the drones since August 2008. The most prominent among them was Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud who died last month.
US officials said they were “almost certain” that Nazimuddin Jalolov alias Yahyo,a key leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and a close aide of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden,was killed in the drone attack in North Waziristan on Monday.
Both Jalolov and Kashmiri,who was briefly detained in Pakistan in 2004 for alleged involvement in an assassination attempt on then President Pervez Musharraf,were on a US list of most wanted terrorists.
The US Department of Homeland Security identifies Jalolov’s group as the organisation that introduced suicide bombing to South Asia.
Established in Uzbekistan to topple the government,the group moved to Afghanistan and later settled in Pakistan’s tribal areas after the fall of Taliban government in Kabul.
Its activities in some parts of the tribal belt also brought the group into conflict with local tribesmen and the Pakistani military. The IMU has close ties with al-Qaeda and Taliban. Senior IMU leaders have also held positions in the al-Qaeda hierarchy.
IMU chief ideologue Tahir Yuldashev has urged his followers to support the Pakistani Taliban in their conflict with Pakistani security forces. Pakistan claimed to have killed at least 150 Uzbek militants in 2007.
The US Department of Homeland Security describes Kashmiri,who hailed from Karachi,as a terrorist leader of “medium” threat who is closely associated with al-Qaeda.
In January 2004,Kashmiri,then the Muzaffarabad-based chief of HuJI,was arrested for suspected links with suicide attackers who rammed their vehicles into Musharraf’s convoy in December 2003. He was freed after being detained for a month.
The HuJI also sent militants from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,Punjab,Sindh,Balochistan,Afghanistan,Turkey and Uzbekistan to Jammu and Kashmir.
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