WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key said Wednesday that a New Zealand man and an Australian man with links to terrorism were killed in November during a drone strike in Yemen.
Key said he believed the New Zealander had attended a terrorist training camp. He said that among those killed in the strike were three known al Qaeda operatives.
Key said the New Zealand man was being watched by intelligence agencies and that he'd been informed last year that the man had traveled to Yemen. He said he was told in late 2013 that it was highly likely the man had been killed in the drone strike, but that it took some time for DNA results to confirm that.
Officials from both Australia and New Zealand said the New Zealand man had dual citizenship in both countries. Key said he was born in New Zealand.
Australian officials released a statement about both men.
"We understand the men were killed during a counter-terrorism operation and do not intend to discuss its details," wrote Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "There was no Australian involvement in, or prior awareness of, the operation."
Key said the New Zealand man's name won't be released, but that he was known as "Muslim bin John."
Officials from New Zealand and Australia said the men's next-of-kin were informed of their deaths. Key said his understanding is that the New Zealand man was buried in Yemen.
Australian officials said the Australian Federal Police assisted in the identification of remains.
Key said that drone strikes by the United States were justified in certain circumstances.
"Well, I think they are legitimate, at certain times, where countries are trying to contend with very dangerous situations," he said. "And they are trying to deal with terrorists without putting their own people in harm's way.
Asked if the strike was justified in this particular instance, Key responded: "I suspect so, yes, given that three of the people killed were well-known al Qaeda operatives."
In a statement, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it would not discuss the details of the counter-terrorism operation and that it never discussed such details.
The ministry reminded New Zealanders that it has a travel advisory warning its citizens not to travel to Yemen due to the volatile security situation there, which includes a high threat from terrorism and the risk of kidnapping.
Australian officials also advised against traveling to Yemen and said it doesn't have an embassy or consulate there and its ability to help Australians there was "extremely limited."