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U.S. Citizen Among Those Killed In Yemen Predator Missile Strike

By Dana Priest
THE WASHINGTON POST -- washington

A U.S. citizen was among those killed in the pilotless missile strike on suspected al-Qaida terrorists in Yemen Sunday, administration officials confirmed Thursday, adding a new element to an attack that reflects the evolving nature of the U.S. war on terrorism around the world.

Ahmed Hijazi and five other suspected al-Qaida operatives were killed by a five-foot long Hellfire missile shot from a remote controlled CIA Predator aircraft as they rode in a vehicle 100 miles east of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

Hijazi held U.S. citizenship and was also a citizen of an unidentified Middle Eastern country, a senior administration official confirmed. He was not born in the United States, but resided here for an unknown period of time, the official said.

With him in the vehicle, according to Yemeni and U.S. government officials, was a senior al-Qaida leader, Abu Ali al-Harithi, who is suspected of masterminding the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole.

Hijazi’s citizenship highlights the different approaches pursued simultaneously by the administration as it wages its war on terror. In some cases since Sept. 11, American citizens have been arrested and afforded traditional legal rights in the criminal justice system. In others, they have been captured and held indefinitely in military brigs as “enemy combatants.” Now, at least in Hijazi’s case, a citizen has been killed in a covert military action.

Additionally, Hijazi was killed in a country considered at peace with the United States.

It was unclear whether the CIA operatives who fired the missile from hundreds of miles away knew that an American citizen was among their targets. It also was unclear whether that would have made any difference.

The administration, working with the authority of a presidential finding that permits covert actions against Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network, considered al-Harithi and his traveling party a military target.