US used a special Hellfire missile in Afghanistan airstrike

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon used a special Hellfire missile, which had no explosives, to attack Islamic State militants in Afghanistan on Saturday in response to a suicide bombing at Kabul airport last week, according to two US officials.

Two terrorists belonging to the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State extremist group were killed and a third person was injured in an airstrike carried out by a Reaper drone flown from the Persian Gulf region.

The Pentagon declined to release the identities of any of the targeted individuals. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the Kabul airport in which 13 American soldiers and about 200 Afghan civilians were killed.

The missile used by the US in the air strike, called the R9X, is inactive. Instead of detonating, the weapon ejects a halo of six large blades placed inside the missile’s skin, which deploy to destroy the strike target at the last minute, allowing military commanders to set their target and prevent civilian casualties. The probability is allowed to be reduced.

The use of the special Hellfire missile, referred to colloquially within the military as the “Flying Ginsu”, was not disclosed, recalling the popular knife sold on TV infomercials in the 1970s. The weapon has also been called the “ninja bomb”.

At the strike site in Nangarhar, Rahmunullah, a neighbor said that contrary to the Pentagon’s assessment, three people were killed and four others, including a woman, were injured.

The strike appears to have caused limited damage to one house. Video of the scene seen by The Wall Street Journal shows a small explosion hole next to a fire-lit auto rickshaw outside the house. Shrapnel had hit the walls, and the windows of the building were blown up. Clothes, sandals and furniture were thrown around the room.

The Pentagon declined to say whether there were multiple attacks, but the operation was shown to be a single mission, leaving open the possibility that there were multiple attacks, one using the R9X missile.

The strike in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province was in retaliation for the attack on Kabul airport, and President Biden said on Saturday that more such attacks were likely. Pentagon officials would not specify how the targeted terrorists were linked to the attack on the airport, or whether they were involved in planning a future attack. Other officials said they were associated with the two.

President Biden said another Islamic State attack is likely in the coming hours as US forces attempt to evacuate more Americans and Afghans.

The Pentagon has said it plans to stick to the August 31 deadline, when all US personnel and military forces are to be withdrawn from within the country.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the existence of the special missile in 2019. It consists of an inert warhead and is designed to descend from the top of cars and buildings to reach its target, while causing minimal damage to nearby property and persons.

The US government had never publicly acknowledged the existence of the weapon. Several officials have told the Journal about the missile and its use.

The weapon was used to kill an Egyptian civilian serving as Al Qaeda’s No. 2 in Syria in February 2017 and a man accused by the US behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in January 2019 Was. A Yemeni port.

The New York Times reported at the time that the US Special Operations Forces used it to kill the de facto leader of the local al Qaeda branch in northwest Syria last year.