Did the US use a secret weapon to kill Al-Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahiri?

New DelhiEdited By: Sneha SwaminathanUpdated: Aug 02, 2022, 11:41 AM IST
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Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a precision drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kabul, US President Joe Biden has confirmed. 



The killing of Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri raises several questions on the evolving nature of the weapons capabilities possessed by the United States. According to reports, he was killed by two missiles fired at his Kabul home, but pictures showed no sign of an explosion, and US officials say no one else was harmed—this could be the Hellfire R9X in action.

Everything about the secret weapon - Hellfire R9X

The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles are air-to-ground, laser-guided, subsonic missiles with significant anti-tank capacity. They are mainly used in finely targeted attacks. The US government had developed this  secret missile for pinpoint airstrikes that kill terrorist leaders with no explosion, drastically reducing damage and civilian casualties. 

The R9X is colloquially called 'the flying Ginsu' to the small community of individuals who are familiar with its use for the blades that can cut through buildings or car roofs and kill the target. The nickname is a reference to the popular knives sold on TV infomercials in the late 1970s and early 1980s that showed them cutting through both tree branches and tomatoes. The weapon has also been referred to as the ‘Ninja bomb.’

The Hellfire missiles have several variants, depending on its warhead, guidance system, and its physical variations. A latest and peculiar addition to the line of Hellfire missiles is the Hellfire R9X that uses pop-out sword blades to kill targets with minimal collateral damage — designed for targeted killings. According to Al-Arabia, this may have been the variant of the Hellfire missile used to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

US President Joe Biden expressed hope that the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri takes the families of the victims of the  September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, a step further to closure. 

Biden pledged that he would never allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorist groups.  He added that the US intelligence officials tracked Al-Zawahiri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family.