The reported head of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was assassinated Friday near Tehran, according to Iran’s defense ministry.
The death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a physics professor and officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, was confirmed after it was widely reported by local news, The Times of Israel reported.
“This Friday afternoon, armed terrorist elements attacked a car carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Ministry of Defense’s Research and Innovation Organization,” Iran’s defense ministry said.
“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 a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist, after years of effort and struggle, achieved a high degree of martyrdom.”
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It was not immediately clear who the attackers were or if they escaped.
The attack reportedly happened in Absard, a small city near the capital of Tehran, and Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards were taken to a local hospital to be treated for injuries.
Photos and video of the aftermath of the attack showed bullet holes piercing the windshield of a Nissan sedan and blood pooled on the road.
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A 2011 report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog identified Fakhizadeh as the central figure in Iran’s suspected work to develop atomic bombs.
“If Iran ever chose to weaponize (enrichment), Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,” an unidentified Western diplomat told Reuters in 2014.
Iran has claimed to be refining uranium for a planned network of power plants, not nuclear weapons.
“Assassinating nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation to prevent us from reaching modern science,” Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards tweeted, according to The Times of Israel.
An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader issued a warning to the attackers on Twitter.
“In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war,” Hossein Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to President Donald Trump. “We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”
Iranian officials also pointed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interest in Fakhrizadeh as a possible motivation behind the attack.
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