Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Kiwi drone victim linked to al-Qaeda

Mr Key revealed the man was the subject of a NZ intelligence warrant. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Mr Key revealed the man was the subject of a NZ intelligence warrant. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A Kiwi killed in a drone strike in Yemen had attended a terrorist training camp and may have been a foot soldier for al-Qaeda.

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The man, whose name and age have not been released, died after an incident on November 18. It is understood his identity had only been confirmed recently.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed the New Zealand-born man was believed to have died in a counter-terrorism operation.

However, they refused to be drawn on the specifics of that operation.

"We never discuss the details of such activity," an Mfat spokesman said. "There was no New Zealand involvement in, or prior awareness of, the operation."

The Australian reported the man had dual Australian citizenship and was a "foot soldier" for al-Qaeda in Yemen. He went by the name Muslim bin John and fought under the alias Abu Suhaib al-Australia, the newspaper said.

He is said to have been killed alongside an Australian citizen named as Christopher Harvard of Townsville, during a United States Predator drone strike on five al-Qaeda militants travelling in a convoy of cars in Yemen.

The Kiwi's family remained in New Zealand and had been informed. The Mfat spokesman said they had requested privacy and did not want to speak publicly about his death.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed yesterday that he had been told the man was in Yemen last year and had attended a terrorist training camp. He was told it took some time to confirm the man's identity through DNA testing.

Mr Key revealed the man was the subject of a New Zealand intelligence warrant. He refused to confirm the man's identity, but said it was not Mark Taylor, a New Zealander with links to al-Qaeda.

Mr Key said drone strikes were legitimate when countries were trying to contend with very dangerous situations and terrorists without putting their own people in harm's way.

Asked whether the strike which killed the New Zealander was legitimate, he said: "I suspect so, given that three of the people killed were well known al-Qaeda operatives."

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said extra-judicial assassinations were never warranted and eroded respect for the US Government.

"It shows that the United States thinks that it has free rein to assassinate people it doesn't like," Dr Norman said. "I think [Barack] Obama is fundamentally wrong in his pursuit of extra-judicial assassinations via the drones."

He questioned whether the GCSB had a role in providing information which assisted with the killing.

Dr Norman said he believed a New Zealander working for al-Qaeda posed a threat to this country.

"But if we're going to deal with terrorism, we can't act like terrorists."


What is a drone?

• Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, are aircraft that are either pre- programmed or controlled from the ground by pilots.

• They are generally used for either reconnaissance and surveillance or for deploying missiles and bombs.

• The use of drones has risen rapidly in the past few years as they can stay in the air for many hours, are significantly cheaper than other military aircraft and do not endanger flight crew as they are operated remotely.


If you know the Kiwi killed in the drone strike, who went by the name Muslim bin John or Abu Suhaib al-Australia, email newsdesk@nzherald.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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