'Flying Ginsu': The Warhead-Less Missile US Used To Kill al-Qaida Leader al-Zawahiri In The Balcony Of A Kabul Safe House

by Swarajya Staff - Aug 2, 2022 11:56 AM +05:30 IST
'Flying Ginsu': The Warhead-Less Missile US Used To Kill al-Qaida Leader al-Zawahiri In The Balcony Of A Kabul Safe HouseHellfire R9X
Snapshot
  • The Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by two missiles fired at his safe house by a US drone.

    The drones are believed to have used Hellfire R9X, a warhead-less missile, for the operations.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan, United States President Joe Biden has said.

Al-Zawahiri was killed on Sunday (31 July) on the balcony of his Kabul safe house, a compound owned by a senior Taliban leader.

The Al-Qaeda leader was killed by two missiles fired at his safe house by a US drone. The drones are believed to have used Hellfire R9X, a warhead-less missile, for the operations, reports have said.

A modified version of the widely-used Hellfire missile (part of India's Apache attack helicopter weapons package), the R9X has been specially built to kill terrorists without an explosion.

This design choice minimises damage and drastically reduces the chances of civilian casualties, a situation that the US wanted to avoid at all costs, given the tragic results of its airstrike near the Kabul Airport during the last days of its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At least ten innocent people, including seven children, were killed in the strike conducted using MQ-9 Reaper drones to target ISIS-K terrorists.

Also called 'the flying Ginsu' or 'Ninja bomb', the missile is designed to plunge more than 100 pounds of metal. For this purpose, it is also equipped with six long, razor-like blades that are stowed inside the fuselage and deployed seconds before the missile impacts the target. Using these blades, the missile slices through its target but does not explode.

The weapon, which was under development as early as 2011, appeared for the first time in March 2017, when the US eliminated an Al-Qaeda leader, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri (deputy leader of al-Qaeda, directly below al-Zawahiri), while he was travelling in a car in Syria.

The photos of al-Masri's vehicle that emerged a few days later showed a large hole through the roof, with the car's metal and interior shredded and the front and rear parts completely intact.

The vehicle that Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was traveling in. (Long War Journal)
The vehicle that Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was traveling in. (Long War Journal)

Similarly, a picture of the safe house in which al-Zawahiri was killed, shows windows on one floor blown out due to impact while the rest of the building, including windows on other floors, appear in place.

The compound that al-Zawahiri was killed in.  (Twitter)
The compound that al-Zawahiri was killed in. (Twitter)

"A missile with similar capabilities was considered as a “Plan B” to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that year, according to several of the officials," the Washington Post said in a report on the mystery weapon in May 2019.

"The weapon is used infrequently, employed only in specific circumstances, particularly when a senior terrorist leader has been pinpointed but other weapons would risk killing innocent bystanders, the officials said. Conventional Hellfire variants are more typically used against groups of targeted individuals or against a so-called high-value target who is convening with other militants," the report said.

Also Read: 48 Suspects Detained After NIA Raids Across India; 'Something Big' Was In The Works As Response To 'Blasphemy'

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