WASHINGTON – The Yemeni-American killed in a CIA airstrike on Nov. 3 is believed to be Kamal Derwish, the alleged leader of a Buffalo, N.Y.-based group believed to have links to Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist organization, U.S. officials say.
The reported name of the man killed in Yemen, Ahmed Hijazi, is a pseudonym for Derwish, officials said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. He was a U.S. citizen, U.S. and Yemeni officials have said.
A woman answering the phone at the home of Derwish's aunt said Monday that Derwish was dead. She was contacted in Lackawanna, the Buffalo suburb where U.S. officials say the Al Qaeda cell was based.
"Yes, he's killed," she said, declining to identify herself. "I tell that already to many people. I don't want to talk anymore, please. Leave us alone now. We mourn."
On Nov. 3, a CIA Predator unmanned aircraft near Marib, Yemen, fired a missile at a car carrying Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, said to be Al Qaeda's chief operative in Yemen. Hijazi and four other alleged Al Qaeda operatives, were traveling with him and were also killed.
Al-Harethi, one of Al Qaeda's most senior operatives, was the apparent target of the strike. U.S. officials are not believed to have known Derwish was in the car. His identity was first reported by Newsday.
The strike on al-Harethi was conducted under a wide-ranging directive by President Bush allowing the CIA to pursue Al Qaeda operatives worldwide. The agency has declined to comment on the strike.
Jaber Elbaneh, another alleged member of the Buffalo cell, was last reported at large in Yemen, according to U.S. officials.
Six more alleged members of the cell, all Americans of Yemeni descent, were arrested just days after the Sept. 11 anniversary. Five were taken in raids in Lackawanna; a sixth was captured in Bahrain and brought to the United States. FBI agents, acting in part on CIA information, conducted the investigation that led to the arrests.
A federal jury charged the six on two counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, contending they trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. The six pleaded innocent last month.
The charges carry a total penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Authorities said the charges are largely based on allegations that in spring 2001 they attended the terror camp, where bin Laden declared that there "is going to be a fight against Americans."