Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed in a drone attack carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is the latest victim of the deadly Hellfire Ninja R9X missile. The missile is believed to be a secret weapon in the arsenal of the United States that uses pop-out swords instead of explosives to take down high-profile targets.
According to military experts, the Hellfire Ninja R9X missile was conceived with the idea of avoiding collateral damages. The pop-up swords aim at the targets and kill them. Prior to al-Zawahiri, the secret weapon was used by the CIA and the Pentagon, to kill a few high-profile, most wanted terrorists across the world.
CIA's Secret Weapon
President Joe Biden said that al-Zawahiri was killed on Saturday in a drone attack in the Shirpur district of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. A senior member of the Biden administration told media on Monday that the drone had launched two Hellfire R9X missiles at the terrorist leader as he entered the balcony of his safe house.
Interestingly, the photos showed no sign of an explosion, and US officials said no one else was harmed in the deadly strike. That's the specialty of the Hellfire Ninja R9X missile. It takes down only the target without creating collateral damage.
With six razor blades and 45kg of strengthened metal in its tip, the Hellfire Ninja R9X is equipped to rip through targets without igniting a deadly blast that could injure bystanders.
These missiles do not explode but instead release knife-like blades that precisely strike the targets.
The Hellfire R9X, also known as the flying Ginsu, causes no damage to the area because it doesn't carry an explosive payload. It has evolved as the preferred US weapon for assassinating extremist organization leaders while avoiding casualties.
The official described the al-Zawahiri assassination as a "precise tailored airstrike."
The "ninja" missile was developed in 2011 during Barrack Obama's presidency in response to concerns over the number of civilians being killed in drone attack operations in the Middle East. Its nickname comes from the fact that it does not employ an explosive warhead.
The Department of Defense and the CIA worked together to develop it. The missile is produced by Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. How many R9X missiles the Pentagon has in its arsenal is still unknown.
Bang On Target
The R9X missile first appeared in 2017 when senior al-Qaeda leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was killed by a drone strike while riding in a car in Syria. However, neither the Pentagon nor the CIA--- the two US agencies known for carrying out targeted killings of extremist leaders -- have never acknowledged this.
After that, it was used in 2020 when US soldiers attacked a trainer with ties to al-Qaida in Syria in 2020. Reports state that the United States also employed the same weapon in 2019.
The killing of al-Zawahiri was well-planned, as CIA hunting for one of the 9/11 attack masterminds for over two decades.
Since the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011, it was the United States' most important action against al Qaeda. In fact, the RX9 was taken into account when strategies for permanently eliminating the 9/11 mastermind were being developed.
After completing his morning prayer, the second of the day, al-Zawahiri was watching the sunrise from his rooftop balcony in accordance with a well-established ritual.
Moments later, the R9X's 100 lb. reinforced-metal warhead and six katana-like blades, silently emerged from the fuselage just before impact and slashed the 71-year-old to pieces in a matter of seconds.
With Zawahiri's death, all of the 9/11 conspirators have now either been captured or killed. The CIA spent six months doing intensive intelligence gathering that culminated in the strike. They had tracked Zawahiri to the safe house, known his daily routine, and chosen the right time to kill him.
According to US authorities, the effort began in April after they learned that Zawahiri's wife, their daughter, and her children had relocated to a safe house in Kabul's former diplomatic district, which once housed Western diplomats and embassies.
Shortly after, it is reported that Haqqani network members rushed the house and relocated Zawahiri's remaining family members.
The Haqqani network, a notorious terrorist group led by two brothers and their uncle who are linked to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which took over control of Afghanistan in August following America's disastrous exit, was keeping the family safe.
The US painstakingly worked for three months to become sure that Zawahiri was also residing there, which culminated in several reports of him spending "sustained periods" on the balcony.
As the intelligence accumulated throughout May and June, President Biden was kept informed. On July 1, members of his cabinet briefed him in the Situation Room on the execution of the operation to kill Zawahiri. Finally, he was taken down on Saturday.
Although Pentagon officials were "certain" Zawahiri was on the balcony when they attacked, they waited until the following day to confirm his death before informing the President.
After that, on Monday night, Biden addressed the nation to announce Zawahiri's passing and declared "Justice has been delivered. And this terrorist leader is no more."