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NZ deports '9/11 linked man'

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(CNN) -- New Zealand has deported a Yemeni man it says was "directly associated" with one of the September 11 hijackers in the United States.

Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali was deported to Saudi Arabia on May 30, one day after his arrest, because he posed a security threat, Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said in a statement on the department's Web site Saturday.

According to a U.S. investigation, Rayed Abdullah lived and trained with Hani Hanjour, who piloted American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

He was training as a pilot while in New Zealand and had previously taken flying lessons in the United States, Cunliffe said.

Rayed Abdullah was, Cunliffe said, a leader at the Islamic Cultural Center in the Phoenix area of Arizona.

"The government considered that the man's continued presence in New Zealand posed a threat to national security because he was directly associated with persons responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001," according to Cunliffe.

Cunliffe told Radio Live New Zealand he was confident Rayed Abdullah was "detected expeditiously" and New Zealanders were at no time in danger.

In deporting the man, Cunliffe told CNN the country wanted to ensure "New Zealand is not a safe haven (for) terrorists and their associates."

While Cunliffe said he isn't "at liberty" to discuss the information New Zealand had about the man, he said the country invoked "a fairly rarely-used provision of our immigration act for matters of national security."

"We've only used it once before," Cunliffe told CNN. "I think you could take it we wouldn't have used it lightly."

Rayed Abdullah arrived in New Zealand in February under a variation of his name.

"Once his real identity became known, he was identified as having close connections to people involved with the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, and had been named in the 9/11 Commission Report," the minister said.

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