An Iranian nuclear scientist long suspected by the West of masterminding a secret atomic weapons programme was assassinated near Tehran today, Reuters reported Iranian state media saying.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died of injuries in hospital after armed assassins fired on his car, Iranian media reported.
Fakhrizadeh has long been described by Western, Israeli and Iranian exile foes of Iran’s clerical rulers as a leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003. 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.
The semi-official news agency Tasnim said earlier that “terrorists blew up another car” before firing on a vehicle carrying Fakhrizadeh and his bodyguards in an ambush outside the capital.
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.
In 2015, the New York Times compared him to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who directed the Manhattan Project that during World War Two produced the first atomic weapons.