Scottish Daily Mail
Iranian nuclear chief shot dead in ambush
Regime points the finger at Israel and vows ‘lightning’ revenge
A SCIENTIST dubbed the father of Iran’s nuclear arms programme was assassinated yesterday.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 63, was shot dead in a vehicle ambush while travelling near Tehran with his bodyguards. Iranian leaders immediately pointed the finger of blame at Israel and vowed revenge.
According to state TV, the attack began when a roadside bomb blew off one of the doors of Fakhrizadeh’s saloon car. Up to six gunmen waiting nearby surrounded the stranded vehicle and opened fire.
Iran’s defence ministry said in a statement: ‘Armed terrorist elements attacked a car carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Ministry of Defence’s research and innovation organisation.
‘During the clash between his security team and the terrorists, Mr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was seriously injured and taken to hospital. Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving him, and this manager and scientist, after years of effort and struggle, achieved a high degree of martyrdom.’
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, tweeted: ‘Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.
‘Iran calls on international community – and especially EU – to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.’
Iranian military commander Hossein Dehghan said: ‘We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions.’
Israel declined to comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who was singled out by Benjamin Netanyahu in a 2018 presentation accusing Iran of continuing to seek nuclear weapons. ‘ Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,’ the Israeli prime minister told those in the room.
Israeli security service Mossad has long been suspected of carrying out targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists. Four were murdered between 2010 and 2012, with Israeli media reporting that plans were in place for Fakhrizadeh before it was decided to keep him alive and monitor him instead.
He was the leader of a nuclear programme known as Amad, or Hope, which Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building an atomic weapon. The programme, which Tehran has always maintained was for peaceful purposes, was halted in 2003, but Israel and the United States have accused Iran of trying to restore it in secret.
Fakhrizadeh had been likened to Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist credited with being ‘the father of the atomic bomb’ during the Second World War. ‘If Iran ever chose to weaponise, Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,’ one Western diplomat told Reuters news agency in 2014.
A landmark report by the UN nuclear watchdog in 2011 suggested Fakhrizadeh had probably continued his work following the closure of Amad.
Holly Dagres, an analyst at the Atlantic Council thinktank, said the US might be to blame. ‘The Iranians have been watching very closely in the last few weeks given that Donald Trump was apparently looking at options to strike the nuclear programme himself,’ the research fellow said. ‘This may well have been one of the options he sought.
‘I lot of people will now be wondering will the Iranians retaliate? I would think they will be more restrained because they know these are the final days of the Trump presidency and they know he is looking for a fight with Iran.’
Israel has, with US help, been making peace with Gulf Arab states that share its hostility towards Iran. Earlier this week, Mr Netanyahu travelled to Saudi Arabia and met its crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, for secret discussions.
‘Threatened to strike back’
‘He is looking for a fight’