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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that American citizens have been killed in U.S. drone strikes overseas.

Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed the four deaths in a letter to Congress in advance of a major national security speech that President Obama is scheduled to give on Thursday.

The four killings occurred in counter-terrorism operations against Al Qaeda and other suspected terrorist forces.

In the letter, Holder said the administration targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric who died in a drone strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011. The killing was widely reported at the time — but until now, the administration had not formally taken responsibility for it.

The other three Americans “were not specifically targeted by the United States,” Holder wrote.

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