EXPLAINER: A Look At The Missile That Killed Al-Qaida Leader

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Other high-profile airstrikes in the past had inadvertently killed innocent civilians. In this case, the US carefully chose to use a type of Hellfire missile that greatly minimized the chance of other casualties. Although US officials have not publicly confirmed which variant of the Hellfire was used, experts and others familiar with counterterrorism operations said a likely option was the highly secretive Hellfire R9X — know by various nicknames, including the “knife bomb” or the “flying Ginsu.”