August 19, 2022
What is the Hellfire R9X missile, which killed Al-Zawahiri- BPN TODAY

What is the Hellfire R9X missile, which killed Al-Zawahiri

Washington would have used a “ninja bomb”, devoid of explosive charge but equipped with six blades which deploy before the impact to cut its target without blast effect.

After the announcement of the death of the number one of Al-Qaida, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, by the American president, Monday 1er August, information about the weapon used diverges or, at the very least, remains unclear.

Joe Biden mentioned a drone strike in his short speech from the White House. A US official told reporters, on condition of anonymity, that the drone dropped two Hellfire missiles and that no US military presence on the ground was necessary. Kabul, for its part, initially denied a drone strike, citing a “rocket” who had touched “an empty house”before acknowledging on Tuesday morning that a “air attack” had been conducted by “American drones”.

No traces of explosion on the targeted building or collateral victims, while the family of the leader of Al-Qaeda was present in the house. So many clues that point to the use of a secret missile, which would have been involved in other targeted assassinations of extremist leaders but whose use the Pentagon has never confirmed.

What clues after the American strike?

Ayman Al-Zawahiri was killed overnight from Saturday to Sunday when two missiles hit a house in Kabul. The three-storey dwelling is located in Sherpur, an affluent district of the Afghan capital, where several villas are occupied by senior Taliban officials and commanders.

The leader of Al-Qaeda had been spotted “repeatedly and for long periods of time on the balcony where he was finally hit” by striking, the US official added. The building bears no signs of an explosion and no one was injured in the operation, according to US officials.

Members of his family were present in the house but “were deliberately not targeted and were not injured”, we added. Photos show blown windows on one floor, but the rest of the building, including windows on other floors, is still in place.

What is a Hellfire R9X missile?

If American officials have mentioned the use of “Hellfire missiles”, the latter – Hellfire AGM-114 precisely – are known for their powerful explosions and, often, the collateral damage they cause. The clues left after the American strike on the house of Ayman Al-Zawahiri therefore suggest, as pointed out in a tweet by a former American investigative journalist, Jay Hancock, that the CIA used another type of missile , derived from the AGM-114, the Hellfire R9X.

The R9X, also called the “ninja bomb”, would have been developed under the Obama administration and would have no explosive charge. Equipped with six blades that deploy before impact, it cuts its target without blast effect.

The use of the R9X has never been officially acknowledged by the Pentagon or the CIA, the two US entities responsible for the targeted assassinations of extremist leaders. This mysterious weapon was dubbed ‘Flying Ginsu’, after a famous 1980s TV commercial for Ginsu-branded kitchen knives, which could cut cleanly through aluminum cans and held perfectly sharp.

Precedents, but never confirmation

The existence of such a missile was first hinted at in March 2017, when a senior al-Qaeda leader, Abu Kheir Al-Masri, was killed by a drone strike while traveling in a car in Syria. The photos showed a large hole through the roof of the car. The interior of the vehicle and its occupants had been shredded, but the front and rear of the car appeared completely intact.

In the American press, an investigation by the wall street journalin 2019, confirmed its use by the Americans after the death, the same year, of Jamal Al-Badaoui, considered to be the deputy mastermind of the suicide attack which, in October 2000, targeted the American destroyer USS Cole in the port of Aden. US officials had described the missile to the newspaper as “an anvil falling from the sky at full speed”. According to the American daily, the Hellfire R9X has been used several times in different attacks in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.

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