Ilyas Kashmiri, a former member of the Pakistan special services group, played a very crucial role during the Mumbai terror attacks, according to reports by the Intelligence Bureau.
Indian intelligence agencies believe that Kashmiri has now taken over as the chief of operations of Al Qaeda.
Kashmiri has now become a key player in Al Qaeda and has shown keen interest in conducting operations in India, Intelligence Bureau sources told rediff.com, adding that the terrorist had been advised by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence to focus more on attacks on western countries.
Nearly a year ago, Kashmiri had told a Pakistani website that the Mumbai terror attack was originally planned by him, but the terror plot was later hijacked by the ISI and carried out by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. The interrogation of LeT operative David Coleman Headley has revealed that Kashmiri was part of the planning process of 26/11, and the two terrorists shared information about the attack.
But the ISI wanted this attack to be exclusively a Lashkar attack, and they wanted Al Qaeda to focus more on the operations against the US. The ISI and Kashmiri fell out for a brief while and the attack was carried out finally by the LeT.
But the scenario has changed completely today. The ISI is trying to bring Al Qaeda to the forefront in both Europe and Asia while the LeT has been directed to concentrate in stirring up unrest in Kashmir.
After Kashmiri took over as the chief of operations, Al Qaeda has branched into two forces. While one faction will focus entirely on Western countries, the other will work alongside the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and other outfits in a bid to carry out terror activities in India.
IB sources say that while top leaders like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahari will continue to head the outfit and take care of aspects pertaining to the finances, Kashmiri will act as the chief of operations. All attacks in the future will be coordinated directly by him and he would be in charge of the planning and recruitment process, they said.
The ISI had initially asked Kashmiri to plan a terror strike on the Commonwealth Games, but decided against it later as it didn't want Al Qaeda to carry out attacks on Indian soil so early.
Kashmiri is a trump card for the terror outfit, as he has vast experience in conducting terror operations in India and he is adept at handling Indian security forces, say sources.
With Kashmiri taking charge of terror operations, the IB fears that India will have to face more suicide attacks, rather than bomb blasts. Intelligence reports suggest that he has been training cadres in his kind of warfare and Kashmiri has at least 300 personnel at his disposal.