Tue. Sep 26th, 2023

by Lenny “Rainbow” Ace

Onlookers near the city of Marib in Yemen were recently shocked by the sight of a small car with its roof torn off and windows shattered. The car contained the bodies of three men, who were later identified as suspected members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most dangerous branches of the extremist group. The strike that took their lives has renewed questions about the U.S. drone campaign in Yemen, which is just as secretive as ever despite promises from the Biden administration to put more rules in place.

The weapon used in the attack was likely a Hellfire R9X, otherwise known as the “flying Ginsu” or “knife bomb.” This weapon is known to only be used by U.S. forces and has been used in other attacks attributed to the U.S. The R9X is designed for high-value target killing, so the fact that it was used against these three suspected AQAP members raises questions about the current state of the U.S. drone war in Yemen. The White House declined to comment on the strike, and U.S. Air Forces Central said they had no information that their forces carried out any strike in Marib. The CIA, which is believed to have conducted R9X strikes in the past, also declined to comment.

The R9X Hellfire is different from other anti-tank missiles used by the U.S. military in that it has six rotating blades instead of a standard explosive warhead. This helps direct the weapon at a specific person and prevents wider casualties. The scenes after an R9X attack, such as the one in Marib, are unique in that the roofs of targeted cars are torn through with clean lines across a multitude of cuts, while the rest of the vehicle remains intact.

Local tribal leaders, as well as organizations such as New America and Airwars, suspect that an R9X strike was carried out in Marib. However, without transparency, it is difficult to know for sure. The men killed in the strike were not prominent members of AQAP, and one was identified as a bomb-maker. The AQAP continues to hold a presence in Marib, despite the city being nominally under control of Saudi-backed allies of Yemen’s government in exile. The group has been targeted by drone strikes for the past two decades but has yet to successfully strike the U.S.

The U.S. government has released few public details about the R9X Hellfire, making it even more difficult to determine and assess the reasons behind suspected American strikes. The ongoing war in Yemen and the presence of extremists in Marib also pose challenges in understanding the full story behind the recent U.S. drone strike.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author.
They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the AMeAR|News, R2iNTEL or its members.

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