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Ilyas Kashmiri recruiting Britons for terror attacks

December 19, 2010 20:35 IST

Al Qaeda military strategist Ilyas Kashmiri is recruiting Britons and training them for launching Mumbai-style attacks in the UK, France and Germany during the Christmas period, a media report said on Sunday.

Kashmiri, described by The Sunday Times as the new Osama bin Laden and one of the most dangerous men on earth, was last week named as Al-Qaeda's chief military strategist in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has been entrusted with the responsibility of spearheading attacks in the West, and has been assigned to bring western recruits into Al Qaeda, the paper said.

"... he is plotting Mumbai-style attacks in European countries including Britain, France and Germany," The Times reported. The Harkat-ul-Jihade Islamiya militant originally from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, has previously fought the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir and his move to Waziristan signalled his intention to back global terrorist causes, the report said.

The 46-year-old, recognisable by his henna-dyed long beard and his trademark pair of Aviator sunglasses, has shot through Al Qaeda's ranks and is known for his brutality and guerrilla skills. He had lost an eye and an index finger while fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

He has established himself as the chief of the Al Qaeda's Lashkar al-Zail (Shadow Army), a militia with a loose alliance to the Taliban whose attacks included the bombing of the CIA's base in Afghanistan's Khost region in December 2009.

Kashmiri has also been accused of bombing a cafe in Pune, in February killing 17 people and of plotting to attack the Copenhagen office of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that published controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

He was named as his successor by Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, before the latter was killed in a drone strike in May. A senior Pakistani military officer told Newsweek magazine that Kashmiri's skills, leadership and links to militant groups "make him the most dangerous man for Pakistan, Europe and the US".

Reports that two British militants had been killed in a drone attack in the lawless North Waziristan region, where Kashmiri has established his base emerged as Interpol warned that Al Qaeda intended to strike in Europe or America during the Christmas period, the newspaper said. Few details are known about the two men, who had adopted the local names Mansoor Ahmed and Abu Bakr, but it is believed they were converts to Islam and that one was called Steve and the other had the surname Smith.

According to a Pakistani intelligence source, 25-year- Ahmed was responsible for weapons and tactical training at a militant camp and had links to the Ittehad-e-Jihad Islami (Islamic Jihad Union) group and Al Qaeda.

Image: Ilyas Kashmiri

H S Rao in London
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