An Iranian nuclear scientist dubbed the ‘father of the regime’s bomb program’ was assassinated today – as Tehran blamed Israel for the attack.
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 in the attack were rushed to a local hospital but medics were unable to revive Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
Images of the aftermath of the attack show blood pooled on the road by a car – with a windscreen peppered with bullet holes.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has claimed there were ‘serious indications of (an) Israeli role’ in the assassination.
He wrote on Twitter: ‘Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.’
He also called on the international community to ‘end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.’
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
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. Pictured: A photo purporting to be from the scene that was widely shared by local media
Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road
Iranian State TV released several images of the scene – including one that shows shards of glass and metal on the road (pictured)
The masters of ‘wet work’: Israeli agents are feared for covert assassination ops
April 21, 2018 – Fadi al-Batsh was shot dead by two people on a motorcycle when he was leaving a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malasia.
Palestinian Batsh was an engineer from the Gaza Strip with links to Palistinian fundamentalist militant group Hamas.
Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency – is suspected to be behind it.
March 24, 2017 – Senior Hamas-operative Mazen Fuqaha was shot four times in the head and chest in the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed Israeli special forces were behind the killing.
December 17, 2016 – Mohammed Al Zawari – the chief of Hamas’s drone program – was shot in the head six times outside of his home in Tunisia. Mossad were accused of the killing.
February 12, 2013 – Hassan Shateri – who went by the pseudonym Hussam Khoshnevis – was a major general of Iran’s elite
He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria.
January 11, 2012 – Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was assassinated in a motorbike bomb attack in Tehran. Mossad are allegedly responsible.
November 12, 2011 – General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed – along with 17 other Revolutionary Guard members – in an explosion at a missile base in Tehran.
Moghaddam was the mind behind Iran’s ballistic missile forces.
Iranian officials themselves have insisted the explosion was an accident and said there was no Israeli involvement – but some reports have accused Mossad of being behind it.
Israel has so far declined to comment on 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 2007.
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.
Mr 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.
A statement by Iran’s armed forces confirmed Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s death.
It stated: ‘Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving him, and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle.’
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-Mahabadi was in, the agency said.
Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.
State television later published a photograph of security forces blocking off the road.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Guard, appeared to acknowledge the attack on Fakhrizadeh.
Those wounded in the attack (the aftermath, pictured) were rushed to a local hospital but medics were unable to revive Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi
A photo purporting to be from the scene of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s assassination that was widely shared by local media
It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was in, reports suggest. Pictured: Part of the aftermath of the attack
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
Who is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi and why is he a prominent figure in Israel-Iran tensions?
Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, killed in an attack outside Tehran on Friday, was widely seen outside the country as a leading figure in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Iran denies his involvement.
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT HIM?
Western officials and experts believe Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi played a pivotal role in suspected Iranian work in the past to develop the means to assemble a nuclear warhead behind the facade of a declared civilian uranium enrichment program.
Iran denies ever having sought to develop a nuclear weapon.
A landmark report by the UN nuclear watchdog in 2011 identified Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as a central figure in suspected Iranian work to develop technology and skills needed for atomic bombs, and suggested he may still have a role in such activity.
Believed to be a senior officer in the elite Revolutionary Guards, Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was the only Iranian the report identified.
WHAT DOES IRAN SAY?
The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has long wanted to meet Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as part of a protracted investigation into whether Iran carried out illicit nuclear weapons research.
Showing no sign it would heed the request, Iran acknowledged Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s existence several years ago but said he was an army officer not involved in the nuclear programme, according to a diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter.
He was also named in a 2007 UN resolution on Iran as a person involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT HIS BACKGROUND?
An exiled Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in May 2011 issued a report with what it said was a photograph of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, with dark hair and beard stubble. It was not possible to independently verify the picture.
The NCRI said in the report that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was born in 1958 in the holy Muslim city of Qom, was a deputy defence minister and a Revolutionary Guards brigadier-general. He holds a nuclear engineering doctorate and taught at Iran’s University of Imam Hussein.
‘Assassinating nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation to prevent us from reaching modern science,’ Salami tweeted.
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,
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
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 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.
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
Israel has so far declined to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) once called out in a news conference saying: ‘Remember that name’