After President Joe Biden's August 1 announcement of the death of Al-Qaeda's number one operative, Ayman al-Zawahiri, information about the weapon used remains unclear. Mr. Biden referred to a drone strike in his short speech from the White House. An American official told the press on condition of anonymity that the drone had dropped two Hellfire missiles and that no American military presence on the ground had been necessary.
Kabul, for its part, initially denied a drone strike, referring to a "rocket" that had hit "an empty house," before acknowledging on Tuesday morning that an "air attack" had been carried out by "American drones."
There were no traces of an explosion on the targeted building or collateral victims, although the family of the Al-Qaeda leader was present in the house. All these clues point to the use of a secret missile, which is believed to have been involved in other targeted assassinations of extremist leaders, but whose use the Pentagon has never confirmed.
What are the clues after the American strike? Ayman Al-Zawahiri was killed on July 31 when two missiles hit a house in Kabul. The three-story home is located in Sherpur, an affluent area of the Afghan capital, where several villas are occupied by senior Taliban officials and commanders.
The Al-Qaeda leader had been spotted "multiple times and for long periods of time on the balcony where he was finally hit" by the strike, the US official added. There were no signs of an explosion in the building and no one else was injured in the operation, US officials said.
Family members were present in the house but "were deliberately not targeted and were not injured," he added. Photos show windows on one floor blown out, but the rest of the building, including windows on other floors, is still intact.
|Not even a wall of Zawahir's house was damaged.|
What is a Hellfire R9X missile?
US officials did mention the use of "Hellfire missiles" and these – the Hellfire AGM-114 specifically – are known for their powerful explosions and, often, the collateral damage they cause. The clues left after the American strike on Ayman Al-Zawahiri's house accordingly suggest, as American former investigative journalist Jay Hancock pointed out in a tweet, that the CIA used another type of missile developed from the AGM-114 – the Hellfire R9X.
The R9X, also known as the "ninja bomb," was developed under the Obama administration and is said to lack an explosive charge. Equipped with six blades that deploy before impact, it shreds its target without any blast effect.
The use of the R9X has never been officially acknowledged by the Pentagon or CIA, the two US entities responsible for targeted assassinations of extremist leaders. This mysterious weapon was named the "Flying Ginsu" after a famous 1980s television commercial for Ginsu brand kitchen knives, which could cut cleanly through aluminum cans and still remain perfectly sharp.
|Hellfire R9X shredded the driver not the car.|