An Iranian nuclear scientist dubbed the ‘father of the regime’s bomb program’ has been assassinated, state-run media reports.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – a physics professor and former officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – was killed in his car following an explosion and then machine gun fire near to Tehran, state media reports.
Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.
The alleged assassination came just days after Israel Defense Forces were told to get ready for the US potentially ordering a military strike against Iran before the end of Donald Trump’s term as President.
Top Israeli officials warned of ‘a very sensitive period’ in the coming weeks as Trump prepares to relinquish power to President-Elect Joe Biden.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – a nuclear scientist dubbed ‘father of the Iranian bomb’ – has been assasinated, state-run media reports
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – a physics professor and former officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – was the target of a ‘terrorist operation’ near Tehran, sources told state-controlled news agency IRIB. Pictured: An image believed to be of the scene of the assasination
Israel has so far declined to comment the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: ‘Remember that name.’
Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.
Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was named in UN sanctions resolutions because of his work as head of Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research group in 2008.
The US charges that the organization – known by its Farsi acronym SPND – oversees nuclear-relevant research for Iran and is active in the training of new scientists.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as boss of the SPND during a news conference in 2018.
In 2007, he was revealed to be the chairman of the Field for the Expansion of Deployment of Advanced Technology (FEDAT) in a leaked Iranian document.
The FEDAT was the cover name for the organisation behind Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
The leaked document purported to show the country’s four-year plan to develop a uranium deuteride neutron initiator.
State TV cited sources confirming Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s death. It said it would offer more information shortly.
The semiofficial Fars news agency, believed to be close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard, 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.
Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.
State television on its website later published a photograph of security forces blocking off the road. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh.
Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Guard, appeared to acknowledge the attack on Fakhrizadeh.
‘Assassinating nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation to prevent us from reaching modern science,’ Salami tweeted.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as boss of Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research group – known by its Farsi acronym SPND – in 2018
Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election, issued a warning on Twitter.
‘In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war,’ Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to US President Donald Trump. ‘We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!’
The area around Absard is filled with vacation villas for the Iranian elite with a view of Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the country. Roads on Friday, part of the Iranian weekend, were emptier than normal due to a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, offering his attackers a chance to strike with fewer people around.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called ‘Amad,’ or ‘Hope’ program. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that ‘Amad’ program ended in the early 2000s. IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of Iran’s now-unraveling nuclear deal with world power.
Senior Israeli officials this week predicted ‘a very sensitive period’ in the coming weeks – ahead of President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
In a bid to be cautious, Israel is reportedly preparing for potential retaliation from Iran, Axios reports.
Earlier this month, Trump held an Oval Office meeting where he was ‘talked out of’ launching strikes on Iran after a previous UN report showed a massive increase in nuclear stockpiles in breach of the Obama-era pact which Trump abandoned in 2018.
Defence sources told The New York Times that Trump asked for options on a bombardment – likely to have targeted Iran’s foremost nuclear facility, Natanz.
And just last week, a report by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed Iran has fired up advanced uranium centrifuges installed at its underground Natanz site.
Tehran was revealed to be pumping nuclear fuel into high-tech IR-2m machines at Natanz, in contravention of an international deal to only use first generation IR-1 machines.
The reported assassination of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi has lead many to speculate that he is ‘Iran’s nuclear Qassem Soleimani’.
Soleimani, a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was assassinated in a US drone strike in January this year.
A spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization in Iran stressed that no accident had occurred and all scientists were safe and well.