The Iranian nuclear scientist killed east of Tehran on Friday was shot by a remote-controlled machine gun operating from another car, the semi-official Fars news agency said yesterday.
With senior Iranian officials blaming Israel, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and others have vowed revenge for the murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the country’s top nuclear scientist.
There were conflicting accounts from Iranian news agencies about how the attack unfolded.
A report published yesterday by Fars News said that Mr. Fakhrizadeh was traveling with his wife on Friday in a bulletproof car, alongside three security personnel vehicles, when he heard what sounded like bullets hitting a vehicle, and got out of the car. to determine what had happened.
As he exited the vehicle, a remote-controlled machine gun opened fire from a stopped Nissan about 150 meters from Fakhrizadeh’s car, Fars News said.
Fakhrizadeh was hit at least three times, according to Fars News. His bodyguard was also shot.
After the shots were fired, the Nissan exploded, Fars News reported, adding that the attack lasted three minutes.
CNN cannot independently confirm the news agency’s version of events.
The semi-official Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) also reported that Fakhrizadeh’s car was hit by gunfire, followed by an explosion and more gunfire, citing Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami.
“According to reports received from members of his security team, Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle was initially shot at, after which a Nissan vehicle loaded with explosives was blown up very close to them while the shots directed at his vehicle continued “said the general. Hatami said, according to ISNA.
IRIB, the Iranian state television, said the explosion happened first, followed by shots fired from the attackers.
Seyed Kamal Kharrazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Foreign Relations Council, compared the assassination to the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the Islamic Republic’s state news agency reported yesterday.
Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed in a US drone strike earlier this year in Iraq.
“Without a doubt, the Islamic Republic of Iran will give a calculated and decisive response to the criminals who took away the martyr Fakhrizadeh,” Kharrazi was quoted as saying.
Mr. Fakhrizadeh was the director of the research center for new technologies in the elite Revolutionary Guard and was a leading figure in Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranian leaders blame Israel
Supreme Leader Khameini wrote on Saturday on a Twitter account that often includes his official statements: “Mr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated by oppressive enemies. This rare scientific mind lost his life for his eternal great scientific work. He lost his life for God and the supreme leader. “
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the international community “to put an end to its shameful double standards” and “to condemn this act of state terror.”
He added that the attack showed “serious indications of Israel’s role.”
Major General Hossein Dehghan, Khamenei’s military adviser, tweeted on Saturday that “Zionists” are seeking to create “all-out war” and vowed to “strike like lightning” on Fakhrizadeh’s killers.
President Hassan Rouhani, also among the many Iranian leaders who blame Israel, also promised retaliation, saying during a cabinet meeting on Saturday: “Think tanks and enemies of Iran should know that the Iranian nation and the officials in charge in the country are brave. and determined to respond to the murder in time. “
The assassination, he said, was carried out in “the dirty hands of the oppressors, in concert with the illegitimate Zionist regime.”
Iran has not provided evidence of Israeli involvement. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment with CNN on Friday.
Israel’s Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Channel 12 that he “had no idea” who killed Fakhrizadeh, but called it “very embarrassing for Iran.”
The US State Department and the International Atomic Energy Agency have said in multiple reports that Fakhrizadeh had a deep insight into the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capabilities.
In 2018, Netanyahu said that Fakhrizadeh was the head of Project Amad, which he and others describe as a secret nuclear weapons effort.
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” the prime minister told reporters at the time.
The assassination threatens to exacerbate tensions in relations between Tehran and Washington, which have deteriorated under US President Donald Trump.
In 2018, Trump withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, and Iran began withdrawing its commitments from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action last year.
Trump has invoked crippling economic sanctions against the country.
The White House is closely monitoring Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, he said.
On Friday, Trump retweeted Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, who wrote that Fakhrizadeh “was the head of Iran’s secret military program and wanted for many years by Mossad,” Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.
Iranian students and youth have gathered at various government buildings in Tehran, and at a rally outside the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, protesters burned US and Israeli flags and posters representing Trump and President-elect Joe Biden.
The European Union condemned the killing and called for “maximum restraint”, while the UK Foreign Office said it was “trying to establish the facts urgently”.
Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s funeral and burial will take place today, Fars News reported.
Fakhrizadeh’s remains were taken to the Imam Reza shrine, one of the most important religious centers for Shiites, in Mashhad on Saturday.
Iranians celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution
After a Sunday service in Mashhad, his body was to be taken to Tehran to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic.