June 4, 2011 -- Just five weeks after Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, there are reports today out of northwest Pakistan that a U.S. missile strike has killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a notorious terrorist and one of the world's most wanted men.
If true, it would be another giant coup for U.S. intelligence. Unlike bin Laden, who was hiding in a compound, U.S. officials say, Kashmiri was actively involved in plotting and directing attacks.
According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is in the region, the American drone-fired missile strikes have played a crucial role in the war on terror.
"First of all it has to be acknowledged that these drones have played a significant role in taking a lot of Taliban leaders and trainers off the table," Gates told ABC News.
Pakistani and American officials cautioned that they had not been able to confirm Kashmiri's death, but reports of his death quickly spread through a rally in Karachi, Pakistan, called to protest American drone attacks.
Kashmiri was a contender to take over the now leaderless al Qaeda. The United States placed a $5 million bounty on his head.
Pakistani authorities say a missile fired from a pilotless U.S. drone killed Kashmiri in the violent Pakistan tribal region called South Waziristan. Several of Kashmiri's followers were also reported to be killed in the same attack. Most of the bodies were beyond recognition, sources said.
"Body parts were scattered all over, their friends came and took their pieces in bedsheets," a source in the area told ABC News.
Sources told ABC News that Kashmiri's body was "smashed to smitherines."
Last month's deadly attack against a Pakistani naval base near Karachi put him on the top of Pakistan's wanted list.
India wanted him dead, too. He was a planner of the vicious 2008 coordinated terrorist attack in Mumbai that killed 163 people.
Just within the last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Pakistani leaders to reboot relations between the two nations in the wake of the bin Laden raid. During that meeting, Kashmiri was on the list of the five terrorists in Pakistan that the United States wanted killed or captured by July.