Kamal Derwish (also Ahmed Hijazi) was an American citizen killed by the CIA as part of a covert mission in Yemen on November 5, 2002. The CIA used an RQ-1 Predator drone to shoot a Hellfire missile, destroying the vehicle in which he was driving with five others.
Nevertheless, the fact that an American citizen had been killed by the CIA "without trial, or some would say, much in the way of evidence", or even the suggestion of any actual crime other than associating with the wrong people, drew harsh criticism from some circles. American authorities quickly back-pedaled on their stories celebrating the death of Derwish, instead noting they had been unaware he was in the car which they said had been targeted for its other occupants, including Abu Ali al-Harithi, believed to have played some role in the USS Cole bombing.
Derwish was born at Mercy Hospital in southern Buffalo, grew up in and continued to live "on and off" in the suburb of Lackawanna. He briefly worked for the plastics factory in the area, but also frequently traveled overseas building up an "air of mystery" around him, as he combined religious fervour with Western ways.
Return to New YorkEdit
Derwish returned home to Lackawanna in 2000, and moved in with his uncle until Yahya Goba offered to share an apartment with him. He was visibly upset with the "decline" of the Buffalo suburb, noting how much the standard of living had fallen since his earlier days in the Ward.
Derwish was described as a "charismatic, bear-like bearded man" who gave khutbahs at the local mosque urging young Muslims to travel overseas to support Mujaheddin struggles in Muslim lands under attack. When his "edgy" lectures tired the mosque's leadership, he began holding informal gatherings at his Wilkes-Barre apartment, buying pizzas and discussing Islam with anyone interested, often watching videos that showed atrocities committed against Muslim populations in Bosnia, Chechnya and similar war-torn nations.
On November 3, 2002, Derwish and al-Harithi were part of a convoy of vehicles moving through the Yemeni desert trying to meet someone, unaware that their contact was cooperating with US forces to lure them into a trap. As their driver spoke on satellite phone, trying to figure out why the two parties couldn't see each other if they were both at the rendez-vous point, CIA officers in Djibouti got the clearance from director George Tenet to fire a Hellfire missile, killing everybody in the vehicle.
Derwish's uncle provided a DNA sample which confirmed what the CIA already believed, that Derwish had been killed in the attack.
The "pre-emptive" attack was protested as a war crime, since Yemen and Djibouti were neither involved in the War on Terror, and no attempt was made to simply detain the men in the convoy before killing them. Amnesty International stated that "if this was the deliberate killing of suspects in lieu of arrest, in circumstances in which they did not pose an immediate threat, the kills would be extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law". The Swedish Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, echoed the concerns noting that the War on Terror suddenly seemed to involve "a summary execution that violates human rights".