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Missile That Likely Killed Al-Qaeda Leader Is Specially Designed To Limit Civilian Casualties

Missile That Likely Killed Al-Qaeda Leader Is Specially Designed To Limit Civilian Casualties

The bomb has no explosive warhead and instead has six blades that will slice anything in its path into tiny pieces.

The drone strike against al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been hailed as a massive success.

Taking out the top brass of one of the most recognisable militant extremist networks in the world is no small feat.

However, many have wondered how such an operation was carried out without more people caught in the crossfire.

Al-Zawahiri was the only casualty from the mission, according to US officials, despite him being in a house in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The BBC and Reuters say that's because the US likely used a type of missile that is specifically designed to prevent civilian casualties.

Hellfire missiles, which are a type of air-to-surface rocket, are regularly deployed in missions such as these.

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Reuters reports these weapons are 'precision-guided munitions' that 'normally cause significant damage, taking down whole buildings and killing or severely injuring anyone nearby'.

But the R9X Hellfire is different because it doesn't contain an explosive warhead.

Instead of causing an explosion that can kill people in close proximity, it has six blades that are attached around the fuselage and are meant to slice the target into pieces.

The blades deploy seconds before impact so as to not affect its flight, according to The Washington Post.

The news outlet described the missile as like a 'speeding anvil ' falling from the sky that can crush individuals or cars if the target is on the move.

While civilians or unintended individuals could still get injured by the R9X, they would have to be very close to the target for this to happen.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed when he was standing on the balcony of the Kabul home.

Ayman al-Zawahiri sitting next to Osama bin Laden.
CPA Media Pte Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

US officials said they were watching the al-Qaeda leader for weeks to work out his habits.

They hoped they would be able to map out a pattern so they could organise the drone strike to hit right at the perfect time.

Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior official at the CIA, told the BBC, said an operation like this would have taken a hell of a lot of planning to execute.

"You need something that's near certainty that it is the individual, and it also has to be done in a collateral free environment, meaning no civilian casualties," he said.

"It takes a lot of patience."

He added: "We are outstanding at this. It's something that the US government has gotten very good at over 20 years. And Americans are far safer for it."

Featured Image Credit: Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo. Uber Bilder / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: US News

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