A view shows the scene of the attack that killed Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran (Photo: Reuters)
https://inews.co.uk-The military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to strike against the killers of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been killed in an attack outside Tehran, according to state media.
Mr Fakhrizadeh died in hospital on Friday from his injuries following the attack in Absard, in Damavand county.
He was widely seen outside the country as having been a leading figure in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, but Iran denied his involvement.
Iran’s foreign minister said Israel was likely to have been involved in the killing, although he offered no evidence.
“This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Iran calls on the international community – and especially the EU – to end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.”
It is clear the event will escalate tension between Iran and the United States in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s US presidency.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was not commenting on reports of the attack, an official from the office said. The Pentagon also declined to comment.
According to state media armed assassins had fired on Mr Fakhrizadeh’s car in Absard. Photos and videos shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road.
Semi-official news agency Tasnim said “terrorists blew up another car” before firing on a vehicle carrying Mr Fakhrizadeh and his bodyguards in an ambush outside the capital.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Mr Netanyahu had previously shown in Mr Fakhrizadeh.
The military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to strike against the killers of Mr Fakhrizadeh. “We will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action,” tweeted Hossein Dehghan, also a military commander.
“Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving [Mr 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 carried by state media.
Fakhrizadeh accused of links to weapons
Mr Fakhrizadeh has long been described by Western countries as a leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States have accused Tehran of trying to restore in secret. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.
Mr Fakhrizadeh was the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear programme.
Existing tension with Donald Trump
Mr Trump has repeatedly accused Iran of secretly seeking nuclear weapons. The outgoing President previously pulled the United States out of a deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear programme. President-elect Joe Biden has said he would restore it.
A US official confirmed earlier this month that Mr Trump had sought from military aides a plan for a possible strike on Iran, but had decided against it at that time.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report said that Mr Fakhrizadeh oversaw activities “in support of a possible military dimension to (Iran’s) nuclear programme” within the so-called AMAD Plan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu said in a 2018 presentation accusing Iran of continuing to seek nuclear weapons that Mr Fakhrizadeh was still working within Iran’s Defence Ministry on “special projects”.
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Mr Netanyahu said at the time.
The killing comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, which Tehran also blamed on Israel. Those targeted killings came alongside the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, that destroyed Iranian centrifuges.
Additional reporting from Reuters