A top Iranian scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, has been killed in Tehran.
Fakhrizadeh, who worked as the head of the research and innovation organisation of the Iran defence ministry, was alleged to have been in charge of a nuclear weapons project before he was killed on Friday.
According to The New York Times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel had, in 2018, revealed files said to be nuclear plans being developed by Iran under a project allegedly led by Fakhrizadeh.
“These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it said it never had a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying.
The defence ministry confirmed the murder of the scientist in a statement issued on Friday.
According to the ministry, Fakhrizadeh was injured when gunmen attacked the vehicle he was travelling in.
He was, however, said to have died of gunshot injuries at the hospital.
“The ministry announced that the vehicle Fakhrizadeh was travelling in was attacked by armed terrorists in the afternoon on Friday (November 27, 2020),” the statement read.
“In the shootout between Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards and the terrorists, the scientist was seriously wounded and taken to hospital.
“Unfortunately, the medical team’s efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he succumbed to his injuries.
“The defence ministry expressed condolences to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei as well as the Iranian nation on the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of the Research and Innovation Department of the ministry.”
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, also confirmed the incident in a post on Twitter, and accused Israel of having a role in the attack.
“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote.
“Iran calls on int’l community—and especially EU—to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.”
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s intelligence minister, in a statement on Friday, vowed to avenge the scientist’s death.
“The martyrdom of the head of the Research and Innovation Department of the Ministry of Defence and Logistics of the Armed Forces, Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, caused deep sorrow and agony,” Alavi was quoted as saying.
“Intelligence agents have begun work to identify the mercenary terrorist elements of this savage crime, and will take revenge on the perpetrators and masterminds of this crime.”
Iran has come under a number of sanctions — including those by the United Nations and the United States of America — over its involvement with nuclear weapons.
In September 2020, Michael Pompeo, US secretary of state, had commended “the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran”, describing it as “a step toward international peace and security”.