Top Iranian nuclear scientist Fakhrizadeh assassinated

TEHRAN: An Iranian nuclear scientist, long suspected by the West of masterminding a secret atomic weapons programme, was assassinated near Tehran on Friday, Iranian state media reported.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died of injuries in hospital after armed assassins fired on his car, according to Iranian media.

Fakhrizadeh has long been suspected by Western, Israeli and Iranian exile foes of the Islamic Republic to have masterminded what they said was a covert atomic bomb programme. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.

“Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving (Fakhrizadeh), and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle,” Iran’s armed forces said in a statement carried by state media.

Fakhrizadeh is believed to have headed what the UN nuclear watchdog and US intelligence services believe was a coordinated nuclear weapons programme in Iran, which the Islamic republic said it shelved in 2003.

He has the rare distinction of being the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear programme and whether it was aimed at developing a nuclear bomb.

The IAEA’s report said that he oversaw activities “in support of a possible military dimension to (Iran’s) nuclear programme” within the so-called AMAD Plan.

Israel has also described the AMAD Plan as Iran’s secret nuclear weapons programme, and says it seized a large chunk of an Iranian nuclear “archive” detailing its work.

“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a 2018 speech revealing details from the archive, naming Fakhrizadeh as AMAD’s chief.

Netanyahu had said that after AMAD was shut down, Fakhrizadeh continued working at an organisation within Iran’s Defence Ministry on “special projects”.

Condemnations

Condemning the move, Iran's Foreign Minister Javed Zarif hinted at the possibility of Israeli involvement in the attack.

"Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators," he tweeted, while calling upon the international community "to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror."

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami tweeted that the assassination of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist displayed “the depth of enemies’ hatred” towards the Islamic Republic. - Reuters �