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Al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri became the latest victim of the feared Hellfire Ninja R9X missile that uses pop-out swords rather than an explosive to take down high profile targets, according to military experts.
Al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in the Shirpur neighborhood of the Afghani capital of Kabul on Saturday, according to President Joe Biden.
The terrorist leader was 71 years old.
A senior Biden administration official told reporters on August 1 that a drone fired two Hellfire R9X missiles at the terrorist leader as he walked on to the balcony of his safe house.
The R9X carries 45kg of reinforced metal in its tip with six extendable blades designed to shred the target upon impact without triggering a blast that could prove deadly to those nearby.
The official described the al-Zawahiri assassination as a 'precise tailored airstrike.'
Osama Bin-Laden's former number two was staying in the home with members of his family. President Biden said that there other injuries as a result of Saturday's strike.
It was the United State's most significant strike against al Qaeda since the killing of bin Laden in 2011. In fact, the RX9 was considered when plans were being drawn up to permanently take down the 9/11 mastermind.
The R9X Hellfire missile has become one of the US military's favored weapons for precision assassinations as it carries a lower risk of collateral damage.
Developed during Obama's presidency in 2011 amid concerns over the number of civilians being killed in drone strike campaigns in the Middle East, the 'ninja' missile is so nicknamed because it foregoes the use of an explosive warhead.
It the result of a combined effort by the CIA and the Department of Defense.
The missile is made Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman. It is not clear how many R9X missiles that the Pentagon have in their possession.
The R9X is not mentioned in the 2022 budget requests for missile procurement.
The secretive military Joint Special Operations Command has confirmed the use of the R9X twice, in 2019 and 2020, reports the New York Times. But it has reportedly been used on nearly a dozen other occasions to take out specific targets.
During the Korean and Vietnam wars in the 1950s, the US military pioneered an idea of non-explosive kinetic bombs named Lazy Dogs.
The bombs were designed to kill using kinetic energy after being dropped from aircraft. The weighed between 560 and 625 pounds. Lazy Dogs did not prove to be popular among commanders and their development was halted in the 1960s.
Osama bin Laden's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone attack in Kabul this weekend
Al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in the Shirpur neighborhood of the Afghani capital of Kabul on Saturday, according to President Joe Biden