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Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo
The attack that killed the alleged architect of Iran’s nuclear weapons program on Friday was carried out using an Israeli-manufactured weapon controlled by satellite, Iranian news sites reported on Monday.
Just after the burial of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, state TV’s English-language Press TV reported a weapon recovered from the scene of the attack bore “the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.” There were no images published of the alleged weapon in the report, which was attributed to “informed sources.”
Additionally, a report on the Arabic-language Al Alam news site, which is operated by the state-owned media corporation Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, said there was proof of Israel’s involvement in the killing. The report, which was attributed to a single anonymous source, offered no evidence for its claim.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, separately told state TV that Iran’s enemies had launched “a number of failed operations” against Fakhrizadeh in the past.
“This time, the enemy applied a completely new, professional and sophisticated method,” Shamkhani said, without elaborating.
The highly public killing of Fakhrizadeh prompted widespread condemnation from Iran, which explicitly accused Israel of being responsible for the attack and threatened to exact revenge for it.
The reports came a day after the semi-officials Fars news site, a leading Iranian outlet, reported that Friday’s attack was carried out from afar using a remote-controlled machine gun attached to a car with no human agents on the scene, a significantly different description of the attack than had been previously presented. The account was not attributed to official sources and was not immediately confirmed by Iran.
According to the outlet, the assault took place over the course of three minutes as Fakhrizadeh — a brigadier general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a key figure in the country’s military research-and-development program long regarded by Israel and the US as the head of its rogue nuclear weapons program — traveled with his wife toward the resort town of Absard, east of Tehran.
The operation kicked off when the lead car in Fakhrizadeh’s security detail traveled ahead to inspect his destination, the report said. At that point, a number of bullets were fired at Fakhrizadeh’s armored car, prompting him to exit the vehicle as he was apparently unaware that he was under attack, thinking that the sound was caused by an accident or some problem with the car, according to Fars news. The outlet did not specify if those shots were fired from the remote-controlled machine gun or from a different source.
This photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)
Once Fakhrizadeh exited the vehicle, the remote-controlled machine gun opened fire from roughly 150 meters (500 feet) away, striking him three times, twice in the side and once in his back, severing his spinal cord. Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguard was also hit by the gunfire. The attacking car, a Nissan, then exploded, the report said.
Fakhrizadeh was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His wife also appears to have been killed in the attack, according to Iranian media.
Photos and video shared online showed a sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and back window, blood pooled on the asphalt and debris scattered along a stretch of the road.
This photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020. Parts of image are blurred for potentially disturbing imagery. (Fars News Agency via AP)
Initial reports from Iran had earlier indicated that an explosion occurred first, forcing Fakhrizadeh’s car to stop, at which point armed agents opened fire at him and his security detail, killing them, before fleeing the scene.
According to Fars news, Iranian authorities tracked down the owner of the Nissan, who left the country on October 29. The name of the owner was not included in the report.
A number of defense analysts cast doubts on the Fars report of remote-controlled shooting, noting that photographs of the scene showed what appeared to be precise gunfire aimed at Fakhrizadeh’s car, which better fits the initial descriptions of armed, trained operatives conducting the raid.
Other news outlets have also published contradictory accounts of the killing, including claims that dozens of Israeli operatives were involved.
An unnamed Western intelligence source told Channel 12 the killing of the nuclear physicist, described in the past as the “father” of Iran’s project to develop nuclear weapons, was the “pinnacle” of Israel’s long-term plans.
Tehran officially denies plans to develop atomic weapons, maintaining its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, though a trove of Iranian documents stolen from Tehran by the Mossad, which where revealed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018, showed plans by Iran to attach a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile.
Iran has suffered several devastating attacks this year, including the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in January, and a mysterious explosion and fire that crippled an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, which is widely believed to have been an act of sabotage.
Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.
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