Syed Saleem Shahzad, chief of Asia Times‘s Pakistan bureau who interviewed Kashmiri, told rediff.com that the 313 Brigade is Al Qaeda’s commando force which trains youth for terrorist operations.
Indian Intelligence Bureau sources suspect Kashmiri is planning terror strikes on the lines of the Mumbai attacks, but much larger in scope.
Kashmiri’s statements indicates that the 313 Brigade was involved in the Mumbai attacks. Indian intelligence sources believe that while the Lashkar undertook a major part of the operation, including identifying the terrorists who participated in the attack, the 313 Brigade was also involved.
Shahzad believes Kashmiri was in the know about the Mumbai attacks. The journalist feels the plan for the Mumbai attacks was originally conceived by a Pakistani security agency.
As a run-up to the Mumbai attacks several low profile attacks were carried out in India. Under the direction of General Ashfaq Kayani — then the Inter Services Intelligence director general; now the Pakistan army [ Images ] chief — low key attacks were initially planned in India. This plan continued when General Nadeem Taj took over as ISI chief after Kayani was promoted to his present position.
A few dozen terrorists were trained at the Mangla dam near Islamabad [ Images ] to be later sent to Gujarat from where they were to travel to Kashmir [ Images ] and give the militancy in that state a terror fillip. Lashkar leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhwi, who faces a trial for his role in the 26/11 attacks, was part of this plan.
After Al Qaeda representatives stepped in, they suggested that instead of carrying out a low-profile attack on Kashmir, Mumbai be targeted instead. Lakhwi and his ISI minders disassociated with the original plan of attacking Kashmir and decided to go ahead with the Mumbai attacks.
Ilyas Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade is believed to be one of the organisations that trained the ten men who attacked Mumbai. IB sources say although Kashmiri and his terrorists are currently fighting American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, his primary interest remains India. Kashmiri, a former Pakistan army commando, fought the Indian military in Kashmir before moving on to Pakistan’s western front after 9/11.
Pakistani security agencies, Shahzad adds, believe that without the 313 Brigade’s expertise neither Al Qaeda nor the Pakistani Taliban [ Images ] can successfully operate in Pakistan or in Afghanistan.