Al Qaeda chief’s death confirmed
Target considered possible successor to bin Laden
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s interior minister said yesterday that he was “100 percent’’ certain that wanted Al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a US drone strike.
Rehman Malik’s claim came as suspected American missiles targeted hideouts in the militant sanctuaries near Afghan border, killing at least 16 people.
Malik did not say how his government knew that Kashmiri was killed Friday by a missile, or if it had evidence of his death.
Kashmiri, wanted for attacks in Pakistan and India as well European plots, was wrongly reported to have been killed in a similar strike in Sept 2009. US officials have described Kashmiri as Al Qaeda’s military operations chief in Pakistan. He was rumored to be a contender to replace Osama bin Laden as the terror network’s chief.
“I can confirm 100 percent that he is dead,’’ Malik told reporters outside Pakistan’s parliament in Islamabad, without elaborating or offering evidence to support his claim. His comments came just hours after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters in the southern city of Quetta that America had confirmed the death. He did not say who in the US administration told him.
Malik has previously claimed the deaths of some Taliban leaders and been proven wrong later.
Getting definitive confirmation about who has died in missile strikes is difficult, especially if no body is retrieved.
Earlier in the day, the United States fired missiles at three suspected militant targets near the Afghan border, killing 16 people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The identities of the dead in the unusually intense volley of drone-fired strikes in the South Waziristan tribal region were not known. Several Arabs were said to be among the victims of one of them, according to the officials, who did not give their names in line with agency policy.
Since the US raid that killed bin Laden on May 2 in northwest Pakistan, missile strikes have picked up after a relative lull in the year’s first half. Anger at the bin Laden operation, seen here as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, has led to fresh calls on Washington to stop the attacks.
Before dawn, one set of missiles hit a compound in Wucha Dana village, killing seven people. The second set exploded about the same time at a Muslim seminary there, killing five people, two Pakistani intelligence officials said.