Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the top scientist in Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated on Friday near Tehran, the Iranian Defense Ministry reported.
Fakhrizadeh, 62, died while being treated at a hospital after being attacked in Damavand county, near Tehran.
Iranian news agencies reported that the attackers detonated a car bomb near the scientist’s car and then shot him.
Western intelligence agencies they viewed Fakhrizadeh as the mastermind behind Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program. According to several of those reports, he was the “father of the Iranian bomb.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the crime, in addition to linking Israel to what happened.
“Terrorists assassinated an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice, with serious hints of an Israeli role, shows the desperate warmongering of the perpetrators. Iran calls on the international community, and especially the European Union, to end its shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror, “Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The government said Fakhrizadeh, who held the post of head of the Defense Ministry’s Research and Innovation Organization, was now a “martyr.”
The news of the murder comes amid growing international concern over the increase in the amount of enriched uranium produced by Iran, which is a main component for the generation of civil nuclear energy, but also for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Tehran has historically maintained that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
What is known?
The Iranian Defense Ministry reported that “after a confrontation between the terrorists and their bodyguards, Fakhrizadeh was seriously injured and was rushed to hospital.”
The Fars news agency, close to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), published on Friday photos of two vehicles related to the deadly attack on Fakhrizadeh.
The images showed several holes in the windshield of the scientist’s car from the shots.
Another image, which is not very clear, shows the damage of an apparent explosion. Fars cited witnesses who explain that an explosion was heard first and then firearm detonations.
The scientist was transferred to a hospital. However, he died a few minutes after being admitted.
“Unfortunately, the medical team failed to revive him and a few minutes ago the administrator and scientist achieved the high status of martyr, after years of effort and struggle,” said the Defense Ministry.
Fakhrizadeh was born in 1958 in the city of Qom, Iran. He was a professor of physics and has been identified in the West as the director of the Amad Project, the alleged 1989 covert program to advance the manufacture of a nuclear bomb.
The program was canceled in 2003, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“We will make them regret it”
IRGC commander Hossein Salami said Iran will avenge the scientist’s murder.
“The murder of nuclear scientists is the most obvious violation of global hegemony to impede our access to modern sciences,” Salami said.
In turn, the military adviser to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised revenge against those responsible for the crime.
“We will strike like thunder at the murderers of this fallen martyr and make them regret their action,” Hossein Dehghan tweeted.
Fakhrizadeh’s death adds to those of four other Iranian nuclear scientists who were killed between 2010 and 2012. Iran has accused Israel of being involved in a plot over those cases.
Fakhrizadeh was appointed in 2018 by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he presented an extensive investigation into Iran’s nuclear program.
“Remember that name,” said the Israeli prime minister.
There was no immediate comment from Israel on the news of the assassination. The US Pentagon has also ruled out offering statements, according to Reuters.
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