Video: the “Ninja bomb” that killed the head of Al Qaeda, a drone designed to “liquidate” with blades

The attack involved a US drone, armed with two precision-guided Hellfire missiles, which were launched at 6:18 a.m. Kabul time Sunday, a senior US official said.

Zawahiri was “killed on the balcony,” the official said.

The missiles used in the operation appear to have been no ordinary Hellfires, whose high explosives could have destroyed the house. Photos of the building spread on social media show only a few windows on one floor blown out and the rest intact.

Indeed, while positioned on his balcony in a house in an affluent district of Kabul, Ayman al-Zawahiri was the only victim of this drone strike “according to multiple intelligence sources” cited by the same senior US official. Neither a civilian nor members of the terrorist leader’s family were affected, although they lived a few meters away.


The dynamics of the attack point to the likely use of a non-explosive version of the Hellfire, the R9X. It is a secret weapon that carries 45 kg of reinforced metal at its tip, with six extendable blades designed to destroy the target on impact, without causing an explosion that could kill anyone nearby.

These missiles are also known as the Hellfire R9X “Flying Ginsu” after a famous 1980s television commercial for Ginsu-brand kitchen knives, which could cleanly cut through aluminum cans and stayed sharp. perfectly sharp.

The missiles, which have never been officially recognized by the Pentagon or the CIA, are also nicknamed “ninja bombs” for the precision with which this weapon hits its target without causing collateral damage and the use of blades.

According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, the weapon was developed under the Obama administration because terrorists were adapting to US air strikes, hiding among groups of women and children to get out of their reach.

The weapon has been in service since 2011. A missile with similar capabilities was considered a “Plan B” to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that year, according to several of the officials.

The missile is manufactured by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman. It is unclear how many R9X missiles the Pentagon has in its possession. The R9X is not mentioned in the 2022 budget requests for missile procurement.


The R9X is an unusual weapon system, and not just because it uses six blades to destroy its target.

Once the target has been identified, the R9X, not having a warhead, does not explode. The missile upon impact with its target unfurls six sharp blades from its cylindrical body, effectively destroying the designated target without harming nearby people. Unlike shards generated by an explosion, the blade has a maximum spread that varies depending on who is near the target. Therefore, it would also allow a passenger to be killed without hitting the driver inside a vehicle or vice versa.

Although designed to reduce the fatal radius of conventional ammunition, it has a profoundly traumatic effect on the bodies of targets.

An attack attributed to R9X Hellfire missiles in northern Aleppo in 2020
An attack attributed to R9X Hellfire missiles in northern Aleppo in 2020


In recent years, the Hellfire R9X has been used several times in different attacks in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.

According to the New York Times, the Joint Special Operations Command has confirmed the use of the R9X twice, in 2019 and 2020 (it could have been the weapon that killed the Iranian general, US enemy, Qassem Soleimani, during the Trump administration). . But it has reportedly been used on nearly a dozen other occasions to take out specific targets.

In February 2017, Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri, an Egyptian national who served as Al Qaeda’s No. 2, was killed in Syria’s Idlib province by an R9X fired by a CIA-operated US aircraft, according to the WSJ.

A photo of the target’s car shows a gaping hole in the roof of the vehicle, the interior smashed, but the front and rear intact.

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