A senior commander of al-Qaeda’s Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) was killed late on December 3 in what was reported to be a U.S. drone strike.
The commander, identified as Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir, was reportedly passing through the Syrian border town of Atmeh in northern Idlib, when a precision-guided munition struck his van, killing him and an unknown man that was escorting him.
Local sources said that the pinpoint airstrike was carried out by a U.S. unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). The U.S.-led coalition has not confirmed this, yet.
Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir, an Algerian national, joined al-Qaeda in Syria in 2013. The commander was reportedly the main trainer of HTS’ elite special forces, known as the “Red Bands.”
The precision-guided munition used in the assassination struck the van’s driver’s seat without causing any explosion or collateral damage. This led many observers and experts into claiming that the U.S.-made AGM-114R9X Hellfire missile was used in the airstrike.
Dubbed “Ninja Bomb”, the AGM-114R9X is a Hellfire variant with a kinetic warhead with pop-out blades, intended to reduce collateral damage. Deployed in secret since 2017, with existence revealed in 2019.
Eldorar al-Shamiyah, a pro-opposition news outlet, released two photos showing the remains of the missile used to assassinate Abu Ahmad al-Muahajir. One of the photos shows what appears to be an aerated blade.
The U.S. reportedly used the AGM-114R9X to assassinate Abu Khayr al-Masri, a prominent HTS leader, on February 26 of 2017.
If the U.S.-led coalition confirms its responsibility for the assassination of al-Muhajir, this will be the first such attack by the coalition against HTS since the assassination of al-Masri more than two years ago.