Fars News Agency by way of AP
Updated at 3:22 p.m. ET
A high Iranian scientist believed to be accountable for creating the nation’s army nuclear program was killed Friday, inflicting outrage in Iran and elevating U.S. considerations over potential retaliation.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was in a automobile that got here below assault from “armed terrorists,” Iran’s Defense Ministry stated in a press release. “In the shootout between Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards and the terrorists, the scientist was seriously wounded and taken to hospital,” the place the medical workforce was unable to save lots of him and he succumbed to his accidents, it stated.
State media stated the automobile was touring exterior the capital, Tehran, when it got here below assault.
No one instantly claimed accountability for the assault, however some senior Iranian officers stated they consider Israel performed a task.
“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated on Twitter. “This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.”
The Israeli authorities declined to touch upon Fakhrizadeh’s killing.
In April 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked about the scientist when discussing Iran’s nuclear program.
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” he stated, whereas saying that the Israeli spy company Mossad had stolen paperwork from Iran about its covert nuclear actions.
In remarks Friday following information of the killing, Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami stated Fakhrizadeh had a observe report of scientific and protection improvements, and led a workforce that developed one of many nation’s first kits for coronavirus prognosis. Fakhrizadeh, a professor of physics at Imam Hussein University in Tehran, was the previous head of Iran’s Physics Research Center.
The U.S. State Department and Pentagon declined to touch upon the incident.
But a senior U.S. official talking on situation of anonymity stated the killing has raised considerations of blowback from Iran in opposition to U.S. forces within the area, particularly in Iraq, the place U.S. forces have already got confronted assaults from Iranian-backed militias.
It’s not the primary time Fakhrizadeh confronted an try on his life. Israeli intelligence affairs journalist Yossi Melman reported that the Iranian scientist escaped an tried assassination just a few years in the past.
In addition to Fakhrizadeh’s work as a physics professor, “he also led the clandestine Amad plan checking the feasibility of a nuclear bomb” and “led its weaponization efforts,” Melman wrote in a tweet retweeted by President Trump. “He was head of Iran’s secret military program and wanted for many years by Mossad.”
The U.S. Departments of State and Treasury began sanctioning Fakhrizadeh in 2008, blocking him from interacting with the U.S. monetary system. The U.S. has publicly said that Fakhrizadeh was the chief of Iran’s nuclear analysis program.
The killing might result in reprisal by Iranian forces. When President Trump this month raised the likelihood of attacking Iran to disable its nuclear program, U.S. army and different senior officers pushed again, warning of potential retaliation in opposition to U.S. troops within the area.
Still, Israeli Defense Forces allegedly have been instructed in current weeks to arrange for the likelihood that the U.S. would strike Iran earlier than Trump leaves workplace, Axios reported Wednesday. This perception wasn’t based mostly on particular intelligence, however was because of the anticipation of a “very sensitive period” whereas Trump remains to be commander in chief, Axios stated, citing senior Israeli officers.
Trita Parsi, founding father of the National Iranian American Council, stated in a sequence of tweets that Israel is a “prime suspect” within the assault as a result of it has the experience and motivation to do.
“Conducting attacks in Iran has few down-sides for Israel right now,” stated Parsi, who has written extensively on the connection between Iran, Israel and the U.S. “Either Iran lashes out and sparks a broader conflict that sucks in the US, bringing about a US-Iran confrontation that Netanyahu long has sought.”
The assassination is prone to complicate any Biden administration try and revive diplomacy with Iran, Parsi stated.
Iranian officers have already promised the nation would retaliate in opposition to the perpetrators, which they at the moment understand to be Israel.
“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,” stated Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s supreme chief, in response to The Associated Press. “We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”
NPR’s Peter Kenyon, Daniel Estrin, Tom Bowman and Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.