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Top nuclear scientist was 'assassinated', says Iran's defence minister

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died in hospital from wounds suffered during an attack by “armed terrorists”, the country’s defence ministry said.

This photo, released by the semi-official Fars News Agency, shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed.
This photo, released by the semi-official Fars News Agency, shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed.
Image: AP/PA Images

IRAN SAID ONE of its most prominent nuclear scientists was assassinated today in an attack on his car outside Tehran that it accused arch foe Israel of being behind.

The scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was “seriously wounded” when assailants targeted his car before being engaged in a gunfight with his security team, the defence ministry said in a statement.

It added that Fakhrizadeh, who headed the defence ministry’s reasearch and innovation organisation, was later “martyred” after medics failed to revive him.

Fakhrizadeh, once described by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, had been travelling in a car near Absard city in Tehran province’s eastern Damavand county.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said there were “serious indications of an Israeli role” in the scientist’s assassination.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” he added.

He also called on the international community to “end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.”

Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.

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 programme is peaceful.

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad, or ‘Hope’, programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Amad programme ended in the early 2000s.

IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of Iran’s now-unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

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Fakhrizadeh’s assassination comes less than two months before Joe Biden is to take office as US president.

Biden has has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under incumbent US President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

Trump said at the time that the deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) it did not offer sufficient guarantees to stop Tehran from acquiring an atomic bomb. Iran has always denied it wants such a weapon.

With reporting from the Press Association.

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