The modified Hellfire missile carried an inert warhead. Instead of exploding, it hurled about 100 pounds of metal through the top of Mr. al-Aruri’s car. If the high-velocity projectile did not kill him, the missile’s other feature almost certainly did: six long blades tucked inside, which deployed seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path.
The Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, was initially developed nearly a decade ago under pressure from President Barack Obama to reduce civilian casualties and property damage in America’s long-running wars on terrorism in far-flung hot spots such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.
One of the warriors roared, brandishing his sword and lunging towards the door of the inn.
He managed two steps. He was still roaring when the knife missile flicked past him, field outstretched.
It separated his neck from his shoulders. The roar turned to a sound like the wind, bubbling thickly through the exposed wind-pipe as his body crashed to the dust.
Faster - and turning more tightly - than any bird or insect, the knife missile made an almost invisibly quick circle round most of the riders, producing an odd stuttering noise.
Seven of the riders - five standing, two still mounted - collapsed into the dust, in fourteen separate pieces.
(Read more about knife missiles)