Al-Zawahiri on his Kabul the hellfire missile took him out

Two Hellfire missiles Ended the life of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri On the balcony of a safe house in a wealthy community in the Afghan capital Kabul at 6:18 a.m. on Sunday, a senior government official said on Monday.

The missile was launched by an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone, killing him on the spot.

The nature of the strike, as described by a senior administration official, suggests the US may have used a variant of the R9X Hellfire, also known as the “Ninja” or “Flying Man” missile, nicknamed the famous Knife Sold on TV in the 1980s. This variant has recently been used to kill other extremist leaders.

According to defense intelligence provider Janes, the R9X Hellfire has six blades that spin at high speeds and deploy before impact — not traditional warhead charges. The missile pierces and cuts through the target instead of blowing it up. This design allows for easier removal of intended targets while reducing the potential for additional casualties.

Ayman Zawahiri
Ayman Al-Zawahiri in the undated image in the video

Maher Attar/Sygma via Getty Images

The White House did not share details about the type of Hellfire missiles used. On Monday, a reporter asked a senior administration official by phone about the nature of the missile, but the official did not answer.

Senior government officials briefing reporters said the attack only killed al-Zawahiri and avoided civilian casualties, and that the attack did not completely destroy the safe house where al-Zawahiri and his family were hiding. It is unclear whether the missile caused structural damage to the terrace. Two intelligence sources familiar with the matter said the CIA carried out the attack.

The Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile originally designed for anti-armor strikes, but later versions have been used for precision drone strikes. Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin developed the missile called the Helicopter, Laser, Launch and Forget Missile, which later evolved into what is now known as the Hellfire.

The R9X variant was first deployed covertly in 2017 to kill Abu Khayr al-Masri, a member of the al Qaeda leadership, according to the U.S. Army Equipment Guide.

Aftermath photos on social media show the car where masri is said to be killed The passenger compartment of the beige Kia sedan was damaged, but the engine block was not. The roof on the right side of the vehicle was blown off.

Video images posted online by Syrian militants in Idlib province show people inspecting a sedan that was badly damaged by an alleged US airstrike on February 26, 2017. There are unconfirmed reports that al-Qaeda deputy leader Abdullah Mohammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, also known as Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, was killed in the strike.

The Hellfire variant became known to the public in 2019 after it was used to take down Jamal Ahmad Mohammad Al Badawi, the man behind the USS Cole Bombing in 2000.

The Wall Street Journal’s 2019 report A weapon similar to the R9X was considered an alternative to the killing of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, but officials eventually settled on special forces fighter jets.

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