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Killed American may be linked to alleged terror cell

Scraps were all that remained of a car that was carrying suspected terrorists after it was hit by a  U.S. missile  in Yemen.
Scraps were all that remained of a car that was carrying suspected terrorists after it was hit by a U.S. missile in Yemen.

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CNN's David Ensor reports U.S. officials confirmed that one of the men killed by a U.S. missile in Yemen was a U.S. citizen (November 8)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An American man, who was among the six suspected al Qaeda terrorists killed by a U.S. missile in Yemen, may be linked to an alleged sleeper terror cell in the United States, a U.S. government source told CNN Friday.

U.S. officials said the CIA did not know that the American, Ahmed Hijazi, was in the vehicle Monday before it launched a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone.

"It doesn't change anything," an official said. "If you're an American citizen, it doesn't mean you get a free pass to be a terrorist."

A law enforcement source said, "It will be up to the State Department to confirm whether he is in fact linked to the cell" in the Buffalo, New York, suburb of Lackawanna.

According to the source, a link is "actively being sought."

Six men -- all U.S. citizens -- were indicted on charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically, al Qaeda.

Prosecutors say the men traveled to Pakistan and then to al Qaeda terror training camps in the spring and summer of 2000, then returned to their homes in New York.

At least one man -- identified as Kamal Derwish and referred to as "Mr. Big" by law enforcement sources -- was still being sought, believed to be in Yemen or somewhere else in the region. Derwish was described as the recruiter for the cell and, like the other suspects, lived in suburban Lackawanna at one time.

It is unclear whether Hijazi could be that man or another suspect with alleged ties to the "Lackawanna Six."

Five of the six men already indicted in western New York are being held without bail.

A sixth man-- Sahim Alwan-- was granted bond but has not yet posted it.

Former bin Laden guard among the dead

Hijazi and five other suspected al Qaeda terrorists were killed by a Hellfire missile launched by remote control from a Predator drone. The group was traveling in a car outside the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Video from the scene showed the car blown completely apart, with most of it reduced to black ash in the desert.

Also Friday, the human rights organization Amnesty International said it has written U.S. President George W. Bush "to express its deep concern" about the attack.

One of the dead has been identified as Abu Ali, also known as Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, a former bin Laden security guard who was believed to have played a major role in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors. Officials believe he was al Qaeda's top official in Yemen.

The Pentagon has called the attack "a very successful tactical operation," stressing that the United States must "keep the pressure on" terrorists wherever they are.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told CNN Tuesday "one hopes each time you get a success like that, not only to have gotten rid of somebody dangerous, but to have imposed changes in their tactics and operations and procedures."

But measures to protect U.S. nationals must not violate U.S. commitments under international human rights law, "even in a time of national emergency," the Amnesty International statement said.

"If this was the deliberate killing of suspects in lieu of arrest, in circumstances in which they did not pose an immediate threat, the killings would be extra-judicial executions in violation of international human rights law," it said.

"The United States should issue a clear and unequivocal statement that it will not sanction extra-judicial executions in any circumstances, and that any U.S. officials found to be involved in such actions will be brought to justice," the organization added.

It was the first direct U.S. strike against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network outside Afghanistan since the U.S.-led war on terrorism was launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.

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