In a development that would flare up tensions in West Asia, an Iranian scientist, Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, dubbed as the leader of the Islamic Republic's disbanded military nuclear program was assassinated outside the capital city of Tehran on Friday. Soon after the ambush, the Iranian foreign minister blamed Israel for assassinating the scientist. Notably, Israel has been accused of eliminating many Iranian nuclear scientists during the last decade.
Nearly a year after Iran and the U.S. stood on the verge of war when an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, the assassination risks further escalating tensions around the Mideast. Moreover, the killing comes amidst the speculation that US President-elect Joe Biden would try to attempt a much peaceful approach in dealing with Iran to ensure it does not have highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
Fakhrizadeh ambushed outside Tehran
As reported by the Iranian state television, an old pickup with explosives concealed under a load of wood blew up near a vehicle carrying Fakhrizadeh near Absard, a city in Iran. At least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid-fire as Fakhrizadeh's sedan stopped, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. Fakhrizadeh died in a hospital after he couldn't be rescued by physicians and paramedics.
Others wounded included bodyguards from Fakhrizadeh. A Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood spilled on the road was seen in photographs and videos posted online. Vacation villas fill the area around Absard, which has a view of Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the country. Owing to a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, roads on Friday, were emptier than usual, giving his attackers a chance to strike with fewer people around.
"While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, pointed his finger at Israel, calling the killing an act of "state terror." He wrote on Twitter, "Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice with serious indications of Israeli role shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators."
Further, a presidential candidate in Iran's 2021 election, Hossein Dehghan, also blamed Israel, and US President Donald Trump issued a warning. Dehghan wrote, "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."