An Iranian nuclear scientist long suspected by the West of masterminding a secret atomic weapons programme was assassinated near Tehran.
- Mohsen Fakhrizadeh reportedly died of injuries in hospital after armed assassins fired on his vehicle
- He has been described by Israel as a leader of a covert atomic bomb programme that was halted in 2003
- An Iranian military commander said that Iran would strike back against his killers
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died of injuries in hospital after armed assassins fired on his car, Iranian media reported.
“Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving [Fakhrizadeh], and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle,” Iran’s armed forces said in a statement.
The semi-official Fars news agency said the attack happened in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran.
It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh was in, the agency said.
Tasnim news agency said that “terrorists blew up another car” before firing on a vehicle carrying Fakhrizadeh and his bodyguards in an ambush outside the capital.
Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital.
Fakhrizadeh has long been described by Western, Israeli and Iranian exile foes of Iran’s clerical rulers as a leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003.
Iranian officials respond
Adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and military leader Hossein Dehghan said that Iran would strike back against the killers.
“In the last days of the political life of their … ally (US President Donald Trump), the Zionists (Israel) seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war,” he tweeted.
Israel alleged that Fakhrizadeh was the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program until its disbanding in the early 2000s.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the killing had “serious indications” of Israeli involvement.
Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name”.
Reuters reported that in the United States, The Pentagon declined to comment on the killing when asked for a response.
No comment has been forthcoming from the White House either, although President Trump retweeted several posts about the killing.
Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.
Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.
Fakhrizadeh has the rare distinction of being the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear programme and whether it was aimed at developing a nuclear bomb.