11:50 GMT25 January 2021
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    The head of the Iranian Defence Ministry's innovation centre Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush attack on Friday, with Tehran suspecting Israeli intelligence of being behind his assassination.

    The assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on 27 November was carried out using a remote-controlled machine gun attached to a car, reports semi-official Iranian news site Fars.

    The entire operation is suggested to have been carried out without any human agents whatsoever. The reported account of the incident has not been attributed to official sources and hasn’t been confirmed by Iran.

    The Ambush

    The assault on Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a brigadier general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who was travelling with his wife toward the resort town of Absard, east of Tehran, is reported to have lasted no more than three minutes.

    As the lead car in Fakhrizadeh’s security detail moved ahead to inspect his destination, claims the report, the ambush started with bullets fired at the physicist’s armoured car, prompting him to exit the vehicle. The account of the attack offered by the outlet suggests Fakhrizadeh was unaware he was under attack, possibly mistaking the sound of bullets fired for something caused by an accident or problem with the car.

    The report does not specify if the shots were fired from a remote-controlled machine gun or from a different source. After Fakhrizadeh exited the vehicle, the remote-controlled machine gun in a Nissan vehicle is believed to have opened fire on him from approximately 150 meters (500 feet) away. The scientist was hit three times, twice in the side and once in his back, severing his spinal cord, claims the outlet.

    ​Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguard was also wounded in the gunfire. The attacking car then exploded, claims the report.

    After being rushed to a nearby hospital, the scientist was pronounced dead, with the report saying that his wife was also killed in the attack, according to Iranian media.

    Widely-shared online photos from the scene of the attack showed a sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and back window. There were trails of blood and debris on the asphalt.

    A view shows the scene of the attack that killed Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020.
    A view shows the scene of the attack that killed Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020.

    The newly-offered account of the events differs from the previous Iranian one, which indicated that an explosion had occurred first, forcing Fakhrizadeh’s car to stop.

    At that point, armed perpetrators had reportedly opened fire at him and his security detail, subsequently fleeing the scene of the ambush. Iranian authorities have tracked down the owner of the Nissan vehicle, claims Fars news.

    The name of the owner of the car, which reportedly left the country on 29 October , was not included in the report.

    However, a number of defence analysts are cited as having voiced doubts over the Fars report. They reportedly cited photographs from the scene as showing seemingly precise gunfire aimed at Fakhrizadeh’s car. According to experts, this is unlikely to have been achieved via a remote weapon. The initial description of the assault, they claim, better fits the actions of well-trained and armed operatives.

    ‘Calculated, Decisive Response'

    There has been widespread condemnation of the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who headed the Iranian Defence Ministry’s Organisation of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND).

    A senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday vowed the Islamic Republic would retaliate over the alleged assassination by Israel of its top nuclear scientist.

    “Undoubtedly, Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh from the Iranian nation,” said Kamal Kharrazi, head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, according to Reuters.

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had earlier called Fakhrizadeh “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist”, saying that Iran’s first priority after the killing was the “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it”.

    The United Nations and European Union criticised the operation as potentially inflaming tensions in the volatile region. Some American Democrats also denounced the raid, suggesting that it appeared to be an effort to cripple efforts by a projected US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.

    Screengrab of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation on Iran's alleged nuclear programme, April 2018.
    © Photo : YouTube / IsraeliPM
    Screengrab of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation on Iran's alleged nuclear programme, April 2018.

    Tel Aviv has remained officially silent on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, whom Israel had suspected of heading a unit within the Iranian military allegedly developing nuclear weapons. However, Iran has repeatedly said that its nuclear programme is designed to serve purely peaceful purposes.


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