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Hellfire R9X missile that slices through target but does not explode used to kill Al-Qaeda chief?

The house in Kabul where Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by warhead-less missile (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@FATCAed)

The US appears to have used the deadly Hellfire R9X, a warhead-less missile equipped with six razor-like blades that slice through the target  without exploding, to kill notorious Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul.

Since the missile does not explode it is a weapon of choice for such operations to kill leaders of terrorist outfits without causing any collateral damage.

What suggests the use of the missile is that pictures showed no signs of explosion in the Kabul home on which it landed, according to an AFP report.

Although neither the Pentagon nor the CIA have ever admitted it in public, the R9X first appeared in March 2017 when Al-Qaeda senior leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was killed by a drone strike while travelling in a car in Syria.

Photos of the vehicle showed a large hole through the roof, with the car's metal, and all of the interior, including its occupants, physically shredded. But the front and rear of the car appeared completely intact. Since 2017, a select lot of other such attacks show similar results.

Details of the secret weapon have leaked out and missile has also been named the “Ninja bomb.”

In his address, Biden pointed out that there was no harm done to the family members of Zawahiri in the precision strike, and no civilians bore any injuries.

A US official told reporters that on the morning of July 31, Zawahiri was standing alone on the balcony of his Kabul residence, when a US drone launched the two Hellfires.

Members of Zawahiri's family were present in the home, but "were purposely not targeted and were not harmed," the official said.

Senior Taliban officials were aware of Ayman al-Zawahiri's presence in Kabul, news agency Reuters quoted a senior US administration official as saying. Last year, US troops had left Afghanistan after about two decades in a decision that drew heavy criticism.

The Wall Street Journal had earlier carried a dedicated analysis, calling it a "secret weapon" whose existence has been the subject of speculation. The weapon was developed reportedly under the Obama administration, with focus on reducing civilian casualties as terrorists increasingly started taking women and children hostage.

Also read: Ayman al-Zawahiri, key plotter of 9/11 attacks, killed in US drone strike in Kabul