The US appears to have used a six-bladed missile to kill al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri during a drone strike on Saturday.
On Monday, President Biden announced the successful airstrike, which took place on the al Qaeda leader’s residence in Kabul, Afghanistan. But surprisingly, none of al-Zawahiri’s family members or any nearby civilians were injured in the attack.
The reason is likely because the US used a special Hellfire missile called the R9X to take down the Al Qaeda leader. Back to 2019, The Wall Street Journal documented(Opens in a new window) the secret missile, which was designed to kill terrorist leaders without causing collateral damage.
The R9X Hellfire variant carries an inert payload. The weapon is designed to use its 100-pound weight and speed to simply crush a target. The missile also carries a crown of six blades that can deploy and shred the target during impact.
Biden did not say what kind of weapon was used to kill al-Zawahiri. But the White House he said(Opens in a new window) The New York Times that two Hellfire missiles were fired. Images of the devastation from the airstrike reportedly show the al-Zawahiri residence was using stands. However, a large window was broken. The photos show that the R9X missiles were deployed to kill al-Zawahiri, according to Middle East analyst Charles Lister.
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This is a picture from the strike point, at #Kabul(Opens in a new window)of the neighborhood of Sherpur.
The apparent lack of explosive damage may indicate that the US used an R9X “flying ginsu” missile, which is inert and carries self-deploying blades to kill a target without collateral damage. pic.twitter.com/LLI31wT3Oe(Opens in a new window)
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) August 1, 2022(Opens in a new window)
This is probably not the first time an R9X has been used to kill an al Qaeda leader. Back to 2020, The times mentionted(Opens in a new window) that the US had used the R9X about “half a dozen times in the past few years” to try to take out al-Qaeda members, even when they were inside their cars.
The White House adds that al-Zawahiri had moved to the Kabul residence to be reunited with his family. “This mission was carefully planned and strictly minimized the risk of harm to other civilians,” Biden said in his speech on Monday. “And a week ago, after I was informed that the conditions were optimal, I gave the final approval to go get him and the mission was a success.”
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