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 Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 10:34 GMT
Bush 'approves terrorist hit list'
Osama Bin Laden
The CIA has the authority to kill Bin Laden
US President George W Bush has authorised the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill about a dozen terrorist leaders named on a secret list prepared by the White House, US media has reported.

Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are among those singled out as targets, the New York Times newspaper says, citing senior military and intelligence officials.

It's the worst of the worst

US official
The report comes a month after the CIA killed six al-Qaeda suspects in a missile attack on a car in Yemen using a pilotless aircraft.

The newspaper quoted sources as saying that killing was permitted "if capture is impractical and civilian casualties can be minimised".

An official told the Times the names on the list were "the worst of the worst" of terrorist leaders.

A presidential order providing the basic executive and legal authority for CIA agents to kill terrorist leaders was signed by Mr Bush following the 11 September, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Assassination ban

The authority to eliminate suspects circumvents a government ban on assassinations because the presidential authority defines al-Qaeda members as enemy combatants and thus legitimate targets of lethal force.

Gerald Ford
President Ford outlawed assassinations

The ban was introduced in 1976 by US President Gerald Ford following public opposition to covert operations by the CIA against foreign targets.

Under the presidential order, the CIA is not required to seek presidential approval each time it plans specific attacks against terrorist leaders.

According to the Times, the list is updated as targets are killed or captured or as new suspects emerge.

The creation of the list is part of an expanded US offensive in its war on terror, the newspaper reported.

'Successful' killing

The US described the killing of the al-Qaeda members in Yemen in November as "a very successful tactical operation".

Qaed Senyan al-Harthi
Al-Harthi was killed by the CIA

One of the dead, Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, also known as Abu Ali, was a major suspect in an attack two years ago on the American warship the USS Cole in a Yemeni port that left 17 sailors dead.

US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said: "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."

The al-Qaeda suspects died when the jeep they were travelling in was hit by a missile fired from an unmanned CIA plane - believed to be a Predator drone.


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See also:

15 Dec 02 | Americas
26 Nov 02 | South Asia
13 Nov 02 | Americas
10 Nov 02 | Americas
06 Nov 02 | Middle East
05 Nov 02 | Middle East
13 Aug 02 | Americas
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