New Delhi: Maulana Illyas Kashmiri or Muhammad Illyas Kashmiri is an Islamist militant who fought with the Afghan Mujahideen, Kashmiri terror groups and with the al-Qaeda-Taliban against the international forces in Afghanistan, Pakistani forces in Pakistan and Indian forces in Kashmir.
Leader of the 313 Brigade group, a breakaway from Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Kashmiri is held responsible by Pakistan of masterminding the audacious attack on the naval base of PNS Mehran and numerous other bomb blasts and attacks on Pakistani security forces in FATA and beyond. India's Internal Security secretary UK Bansal has said Kashmiri is one of the key conspirators behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
He was considered by the US as a possible successor to Osama bin Laden as head of al-Qaeda. He has also been linked to plans to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Qayani. Kashmiri is directly responsible for attacks on offices of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Police in Lahore in 2009. He is also suspected behind the audacious attack against the Pakistan Army GHQ at Rawalpindi in 2009. Kashmiri carries a $5 million reward on his head.
During the mid-1990s, Kashmiri was captured by the Indian Army in Poonch and was sent to prison. He escaped after two years and returned to Pakistan. Upon his return Kashmiri continued to conduct operations against India, once reportedly being rewarded personally with cash by then Army Chief General for presenting the head of Indian Army sepoy Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar of the 17 Maratha Light Infantry to him, as claimed by Kashmiri himself in an interview with eminent Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir.
Kashmiri met David Coleman Headley at a place in Miranshah, the base of 313 Brigade, in the beginning of 2009 and congratulated the latter on the success of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Born in Bhimber of Samahani Valley of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,
various sources claim he was a member of the elite Pakistani Special Services Group (SSG) but in a 2010 interview to Syed Saleem Shahzad, the journalist who was killed a few days ago in Pakistan, Kashmiri denied this.
Having lost an eye and a finger in the Afghan War against the Soviets, Kashmiri was known for always wearing Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses.
He was reported to have been killed in a drone strike in South Waziristan on June 4, 2011. Before this, Kashmiri was rumoured to have been killed in another drone strike in North Waziristan on September 7, 2009.