High-ranking Iranian physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who, Israel alleged, led the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear programme until its disbanding within the early 2000s has been “assassinated” in an ambush near Tehran.
Fakhrizadeh was shot and injured “by terrorists” in his vehicle in Absard, a suburb in eastern Tehran, and later succumbed to his injuries in what amounted to a “martyr’s death,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
Local authorities had confirmed Fakhrizadeh’s death several hours earlier and also said that several attackers were killed.
Israel declined to right away discuss the killing of Fakhrizadeh, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called call at a press conference saying: “Remember that name.”
Israel has long been suspected of completing a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly 10 years ago.
The semiofficial Fars press agency said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh was in, the agency said.
Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were later taken to an area hospital, the agency said.
Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig reporting from Tehran said that consistent with Fars press agency , Fakhrizadeh “came under fire by 3 – 4 unknown assailants”.
“There was an explosion and exchange of gunfire. They also say 3 – 4 people were killed therein incident,” Baig said.
“We have had the top of the Revolutionary Guard say that assassinating nuclear scientists is an effort by hegemonic powers to prevent Iran from gaining new sciences”.
Iran’s secretary of state has alleged the killing Fakhrizadeh has “serious indications” of an Israeli role.
“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Fakhrizadeh, 63, had been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and was an expert in missile production. Fars press agency said this was why Israeli secret services had long sought to eliminate him for several years.
A military advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Israel of killing Fakhrizadeh to undertake to impress a war.
“In the last days of the political lifetime of their… ally [US President Donald Trump], the Zionists (Israel) seek to accentuate pressure on Iran and make a full-blown war,” commander Hossein Dehghan tweeted.
The US Pentagon also declined to discuss reports of the attack.
Iranian Defence Minister brigadier Amir Hatami tweeted that the assassination displayed “the depth of enemies’ hatred” towards the Iran.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad (Hope) programme. Israel and therefore the West have alleged it had been a operation watching the feasibility of building a weapon of mass destruction in Iran. Tehran has long maintained its nuclear programme is peaceful.
The International nuclear energy Agency says that the Amad programme led to the first 2000s. Its inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites.
Friday’s assassinaton marks the second high-profile targeted killing of a top Iranian official after IRGC Quds Force chief General Qassem Soleimani’s killing during a US airstrike in January this year.
Fakhrizadeh’s killing came on the eve of the assassination anniversary of another top Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, who was killed in 2010.
He had survived a couple of assassination bids within the past.
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