How the US Killed Ayman Al-Zawahiri – and Only Al-Zawahiri – With the R9X ‘Flying Ginsu’ Missile


unmanned aerial vehicle illustrated | Getty Images

when President Biden confirmed monday that was a US drone attack Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri killed At a villa in Kabul, Afghanistan, he said the operation was “carefully planned” to kill only longtime terrorist mastermind, “No members of his family were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties,” Biden said.

Drone attacks, typically carried out using laser-guided Hellfire missiles, usually leave pits in the ground, but Photos after home strike Al-Zawahiri was living in which suffered minimal damage. This gave rise to widespread speculation that the CIA had killed al-Zawahiri with a modified inferno known as the R9X – and colloquially as “ninja bombs,” “knife bombs,” or “flying ginsu”. Known, which is a tribute to a popular infomercial knife. Which allegedly can cut anything. Here’s how the US managed such a precise attack:

What is R9X?

The R9X is a variant of the AGM-114 Hellfire, a type of precision-guided rocket Originally developed in the 1980s It was later shortened to the Hellfire, as the anti-tank “Heliborne, Laser, Fire, and Forget Missile” by Lockheed Martin. They are now commonly fired from drones, helicopters and other aircraft. Unlike most Hellfires, the R9X does not have a conventional explosive warhead. Instead, it has six rotating blades who misses the target.

Ryan Brobst, an analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said, “It can do enough damage to destroy most targets, such as vehicles and buildings, while not doing enough damage to city-level blocks and causing significant civilian casualties.” could be the cause.” says The Associated Press,

The R9X was developed in 2011 in response to then-President Barack Obama’s emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties in drone strikes against terrorist targets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other conflict areas. It was created by a former US officer “for the express purpose of minimizing civilian casualties”. Told wall street journal In 2019, when the newspaper confirmed the existence of R9X and its use in at least two specific attacks, one by the Pentagon and the other by the CIA.

The R9X was used in early 2017, however, against Abu Khair al-Masri, al-Zawahiri’s deputy in Syria. Photos of the car that collided with the Hellfire version showed a hole in which the missile pierced the roof and bitten the occupants, but no sign of an explosion was found.

How does this work?

one time remote drone operator Receives live view confirmation of the target and receives permission to fire, the Hellfire follows laser guidance to a person marked for death. Before impact, the drone’s six sharp blades deploy and begin to spin rapidly using the kinetic energy of the five-foot-tall rocket – thus the nickname “Flying Ginsu”.

The R9X is “obviously” developed by “some people” who “got high as balls, looked at each other — and watched a bunch of Acme cartoons — and were like, ‘Hey, what if? If we can leave an anvil in the sky?'” joked Dan Smock, a US Army veteran and former USAID activist, who Told task and purpose He lived in the house of Kabul where al-Zarhawi was killed. “And then the guy next to him ends up watching the infomercial for some reason because that’s his thing, and he goes, ‘Yeah, but what if we make it a slap chop anvil?'”

How did the US find al-Zawahiri and know where he would stand alone?

US officials reportedly tracked al-Zawahiri’s wife and children to a villa in Kabul’s upscale Sherpur neighborhood, when it was discovered that al-Zawahiri had also entered. Former CIA Officer Mark Polymeropoulos told bbc news It is likely that the US used human spies, signals intelligence and other methods to confirm the existence of al-Zawahiri. also a Biden administration official Told The US had investigated the construction of the house to ensure that the drone attack would not threaten its structural integrity or kill people in other parts of the villa.

Officials also said that US intelligence had studied al-Zawahiri’s “patterns of life” at home to trace her habits, and thus learned that al-Zawahiri spent time alone on the top balcony each morning. . “Reports said the CIA had intelligence that he liked to stand on the balcony, and I thought, ‘Of course he would, that was a nice balcony,'” Smock told Guardian,

The al-Zawahiri strike “seems like a model application” of a targeted killing, said William Banks at the Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law. bbc news tells, “It seems they were very careful and deliberate in this instance to find him in one place and at a time when they could just kill him and not harm another person.”

Is al-Zawahiri really dead this time?

This is not the first report of al-Zawahiri’s death, but National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said America has “visual confirmation” that he died in the strike. The Taliban, which has ruled Afghanistan since the US pulled out last summer and its ally’s government fell, confirmed and criticized the strike, and on Thursday the group insisted that it should be supported by “al-Zawahri’s” in Afghanistan. There is no knowledge of arrival and residence”.

US says al-Zawahiri was Staying at the house of a top aide of Sirajuddin HaqqaniA militant leader and top deputy of Taliban supreme leader Mullah HaibatAllah Akhundzada.

It is “bizarre” to think that al-Zawahiri died so quickly after his decades of plotting death and destruction, smock tells Task and purpose. “When the story came out this morning, I read it… and I’m like, you go from ‘This is weird,’ to ‘This is really real,’ to ‘That’s funny as Hell,’ which I am currently. On: ‘Where’s my breakfast bourbon?'”

“I finally came up with the arc in my head,” Smoke added, “I’m like, let’s review: Twice an Iraqi veteran lives in a house that might have been built with opium funds, and then leased to the Taliban, who put the al Qaeda leader on Airbnb in it. and he was hit in it by a Hellfire. It’s a strange loop.”

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