There have been uncorroborated rumours since the forenoon of June 4,2011, claiming that Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of the 313 Brigade, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, was killed in a Drone (pilotless plane) strike by the US in South Waziristan on June 3,2011.
2. The rumours started circulating following a breaking news carried by “Dawn” of Karachi in its web site stating that according to the Urdu service of the BBC radio, Ilyas was among nine persons killed in the Drone strike.
3.According to the BBC report as cited by “Dawn”, officials in South Waziristan told BBC Urdu that a US drone attack targeted a group of armed militants 20 kilometres from the Wana bazaar. The official said the attack killed nine people and injured three others. He added that those killed in the attack were believed to be militants from Punjab. Locals and witnesses told BBC Urdu that Kashmiri had also died in the Drone attack. Witnesses said Kashmiri had arrived in South Waziristan from the Khyber tribal region.
4. The reliable “Long War Journal” of the US, which documents Drone strikes on a day-to-day basis, has reported as follows: “ US Predators attacked terrorists in an area of the Pakistani tribal agency of South Waziristan that is under Taliban control on June 3. Today's strike is the first after a nine-day-long lull. Unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the Wana area in South Waziristan today, killing five "militants," according to reports from SAMAA and Xinhua. No senior Taliban, al Qaeda, or allied terror group leaders or operatives have been reported killed in the airstrike.”
5. In a report datelined Peshawar, the SAMAA news agency of Pakistan has reported as follows: “PESHAWAR: The mastermind of PNS Mehran attack, Ilyas Kashmiri, has been reportedly killed in a missile strike in Miran Shah area of South Waziristan, SAMAA learnt Saturday.Sources told Kashmiri was present when the recent attack took place in the area where five terrorists have been killed including Kashmiri.No official has confirmed Kashmiri’s death in the missile attack.”
6. One does not know what is the source of the Xinhua report. The “Long War Journal’s” observation that “no senior Taliban, Al Qaeda, or allied terror group leaders or operatives have been reported killed in the airstrike” appears to be its assessment. It has not cited any source for this.
7. Neither the Pakistani nor the US authorities have corroborated these rumours. A September 2009 report regarding the death of Ilyas in a Drone strike in South Waziristan proved to be false. If Ilyas has been killed, this will be reflected in the electronic chatter on phones and the NET. The US authorities must be closely monitoring it. One has to await their confirmation or a statement from the 313 Brigade or Al Qaeda. ( 4-6-11)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )