An Iranian nuclear scientist who was assassinated on Friday east of Tehran was shot by a remote-controlled machine gun operating out of another car, the semi-official Fars News Agency said Sunday.
Top Iranian officials are blaming Israel and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and others in Iran have promised revenge for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the country’s chief nuclear scientist.
One report from Iranian news agencies Fars News said Fakhrizadeh was traveling with his wife Friday in a bulletproof car, alongside three security personnel vehicles, when he heard what sounded like bullets hitting a vehicle, and he exited the car to determine what had happened.
When he exited the vehicle, a remote-controlled machine gun opened fire from a Nissan stopped about 150 meters (164 yards) from Fakhrizadeh’s car, Fars News said.
Fakhrizadeh was hit at least three times, according to Fars News. His bodyguard was also shot. Following the gunfire, the Nissan exploded, Fars News reported, adding the attack lasted three minutes.
Seyed Kamal Kharrazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, compared the assassination to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday. Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike earlier this year in Iraq.
“Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic of Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Fakhrizadeh,” Kharrazi was quoted as saying.
Fakhrizadeh was the head of the research center of new technology in the elite Revolutionary Guards and was a leading figure in Iran’s nuclear program.
Supreme Leader Khameini wrote Saturday on Twitter, “Mr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed by the oppressive enemies. This rare scientific mind lost his life for his everlasting 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 end their shameful double standards” and “condemn this act of state terror.” He added that the attack showed “serious indications of Israeli role.”
Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, Khamenei’s military adviser, tweeted Saturday that “Zionists” are seeking to create “all-out war” and vowed to “descend like lightning” on Fakhrizadeh’s killers.
President Hassan Rouhani, also among the many Iranian leaders blaming Israel, promised retaliation as well, saying during a cabinet meeting Saturday, “The think tanks and the enemies of Iran must 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 killing, he said, was carried out at “the filthy hands of oppressors, in concert with the illegitimate Zionist regime.”
It should be noted that Iran has not provided any evidence of Israeli involvement.
Israeli Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel 12 news he had “no idea” who killed Fakhrizadeh, but called it “very embarrassing for Iran.”
The US State Department and International Atomic Energy Agency have said in multiple reports that Fakhrizadeh held deep insight into the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capabilities. In 2018, Netanyahu said Fakhrizadeh was the head of Project Amad, which he and others describe as a secret nuclear weapons endeavor.
Protests in Tehran
There are protests in front of several government buildings in Tehran, and at one demonstration outside the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, protesters burned US and Israeli flags and posters depicting Trump and President-elect Joe Biden.
The European Union condemned the killing and called for “maximum restraint,” while the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office said it was “urgently trying to establish the facts.”
The funeral and burial of Fakhrizadeh will be held Monday, Fars News reported. Fakhrizadeh’s remains were taken to the shrine of Imam Reza, one of the most important religious hubs for Shias, in Mashhad on Saturday. Following a Sunday service in Mashhad, his body was to be taken to Tehran to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic republic’s founder.