'Kashmiri' Qaida Fighter Killed In Drone Attack

20 November 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Azhar Qadri

Srinagar: In a first-ever acknowledgment of Kashmiri militants in Al-Qaida, the global terror outfit's branch in the Indian subcontinent has claimed that a resident of Anantnag district of the Valley was killed in a US drone strike this year in Pakistan's troubled tribal belt. In a video released this week, Al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed Mohammad Ashraf, alias Umar Kashmiri, died in January this year in the Lawara area of North Waziristan. AQIS described Ashraf as a resident of the 'Islamabad area of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)', referring to Anantnag district by its unofficial name. AQIS said Ashraf alongside Qari Imran, who was the terror group in charge of Afghan affairs, was killed in a US drone attack on January 5. In a three-minute video titled 'Jihad Memories', Ashraf is seen reciting militant poetry while sitting with a group of militants. In cut-away shorts, he is seen plucking mulberries, leading prayers and firing a rocket. The video, produced by Al-Qaida's official media arm As-Sahab, is exclusively dedicated to Ashraf's recitation of the poem, which describes the life and choices made by a militant. Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had announced the formation of its branch in the subcontinent - the region including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - in September last year. AQIS is headed by Maulana Asim Umar, who had previously vowed to continue fighting in Kashmir. Ashraf's killing alongside Imran suggests that he was closely linked to the top echelons of the terror group. Ashraf, if confirmed to be a resident of Anantnag district, will be the first Kashmiri militant to die in the ranks of Al-Qaida. Ashraf will be the second Kashmiri militant to die in fighting in Af-Pak. In 2007, Ajaz Ahmad Malla had died in a firefight with US troops in Afghanistan. The police are investigating the claim made by Al-Qaida and probing several names that have been reported missing in the past decade. 'We do not have a confirmation right now. There are a couple of names that we have zeroed in on but there is nothing concrete so far,' Inspector General of Police for Kashmir zone SJM Gilani said. One person with a same name as mentioned in Al-Qaida eulogy, who is being probed by the police, has been missing since 2001. 'We cannot say anything with certainty till we find out,' Gilani said. The police are trying to confirm the identity of the slain militant by comparing his picture with those of shortlisted names.