Kashmiri has most recently been linked to last month’s 18-hour assault on a naval base in Karachi. He is also accused of masterminding several raids on Pakistan police and intelligence buildings in 2009, as well as a failed assassination attempt against then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2003.
Pakistani leaders did not immediately comment on Friday’s attack, but Kashmiri’s alleged involvement in attacks on Pakistanis was likely to mute the public reaction.
The U.S Department of State says he organized a 2006 suicide bombing against the U.S. consulate in Karachi that killed an American diplomat and three other people. In early 2009, it said Kashmiri operated a militant training center in Miram Shah in North Waziristan.
Considered to be one of al Qaeda’s most accomplished terrorists, he had been mentioned by security analysts as a contender for replacing bin Laden as head of the group, though many thought the fact that he was not an Arab dampened his chances.
Ties between Washington and Islamabad have deteriorated since the bin Laden raid. Pakistanis viewed the unilateral operation as a violation of sovereignty, while bin Laden’s location in an army town close to the capital added to long-standing suspicion in Washington that elements of Pakistan’s security forces were protecting him.
With fresh leverage, American officials made it clear they expected Pakistan to boost efforts to locate other al Qaeda leaders in the country. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Islamabad two weeks ago she expected Pakistan to “take decisive steps” in the days ahead.
The U.S. drone strikes have been controversial since they picked up pace in 2008, with about 30 reported so far this year.
Pakistani army officers and politicians publicly protest them, too weak to admit to working with the ever unpopular America in targeting fellow Pakistanis, but the country’s intelligence agencies have been known to provide targeting information.
Opposition to the strikes grew this year after a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis in the street, triggering ever more intense anti-American anger. After the bin Laden raid, the parliament issued a declaration calling for the attacks to end.
The United States does not acknowledge the CIA-run program, though its officials have confirmed the death of high-value targets before, including the head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, in 2009 — a strike welcomed by many Pakistan officials because he too was a sworn enemy of the country.
Mehsud reported from Dera Ismail Khan. Associated Press reporters Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.