Death of Ayman al-Zawahiri: Did the United States fire a “ninja” missile to kill the leader of Al-Qaeda?

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Death of Ayman al-Zawahiri: Did the United States fire a “ninja” missile to kill the leader of Al-Qaeda?

A truly surgical strike. Dawn had just broken in Kabul on Sunday morning when two missiles fired from an American drone hit the balcony on which al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had just stepped out, killing him instantly. But the building bears no signs of an explosion and no one else was injured in the operation, according to US officials. These two elements suggest that the Americans used the Hellfire R9X, a missile equipped with six razor-shaped blades, which slices through its target but does not explode. According to the New York Times, it was the CIA that coordinated the strike, and not the Pentagon.

Little damage

Members of the Al-Qaeda leader’s family were present in the house, but “didn’t were deliberately not targeted and were not injured,” a US official said. Photos show windows blown out on one floor, but the rest of the building, including windows on other floors, are still in place.

A truly “surgical” strike: the leader al-Qaeda al-Zawahiri was presumably killed by a secret Hellfire R9X “flying ginsu” missile, which lacks an explosive charge but has six blades that deploy before impact to slice through its target.

— Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) August 2, 2022

A weapon of unconfirmed existence

Until then, Hellfire missiles – fired by helicopters or drones – were known for their powerful explosions and often the collateral damage they caused. The mysterious new weapon used by Americans has been dubbed ‘Flying Ginsu’, after a famous 1980s TV commercial for Ginsu-branded kitchen knives, which could cut cleanly through aluminum cans. and remained perfectly sharp. Also nicknamed the “ninja bomb”, the missile has become the ammunition of choice for killing the leaders of jihadist groups, while avoiding civilian casualties. Officially, the United States has never confirmed its existence. According to the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to devote an article to it in 2019, the missile began to be produced in the early 2010s, under Barack Obama.

A dozen suspected uses

Multiple reports that a drone strike in Idlib killed Abu Khayr al-Masri, deputy leader of Al-Qaeda (second in command to Ayman al-Zawahiri).

— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) February 26, 2017

Its existence was first assumed in March 2017, when a senior al-Qaida leader, Abu al-Khayr al- Masri, had been killed by a drone strike while traveling in a car in Syria. Photos at the time showed a large hole through the roof of the car. The interior of the vehicle, including its occupants, had been shredded. But the front and rear of the car seemed completely intact. Since then, a handful of targeted attacks had achieved a similar result: the investigation site Bellingcat has identified a dozen.

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