New details emerged on Saturday about the targeted killing of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who top U.S. and Israel intelligence officials say was behind Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.
“Driving a carefully circuitous route to the home of his in-laws in a city outside Tehran, Mr. Fahrizadeh’s car was stopped Friday by a car bomb in a Nissan so laden with explosives that it knocked out a power line, according to Iranian news media and witness accounts,” The New York Times reported. “A squad of gunmen then leapt from a black S.U.V., overpowered his bodyguards and unleashed a barrage of gunfire before speeding away as Mr. Fakhrizadeh lay dying in the street.”
The Times of Israel reported that three of Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards were killed during the shootout and that the operatives who carried out the coordinated hit had escaped. The Times of Israel said that the blast from the car bomb was so powerful, it sent debris flying hundreds of yards away.
Unconfirmed reports by an Iranian journalist claimed that up to a dozen operatives were involved in the execution of the mission and that some of them arrived in an SUV while others were riding motorcycles. The journalist claimed that the team had sniper support and that the operatives dragged Fakhrizadeh out of the car, shot him, and made sure that he was dead.
Between 2010 and 2012, at least four top Iranian scientists linked to the nation’s clandestine nuclear weapons program have been eliminated during targeted operations.
“In 2011, Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electrical engineer doctoral student whose work involved nuclear applications, was gunned down outside his Tehran apartment,” The Washington Post reported. “In 2012, motorcycle riders attached a magnetic bomb that tore apart a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a nuclear scientist working at Iran’s main uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz. Roshan, 32, had planned to attend a memorial for another nuclear researcher, Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, who was killed in a similar pinpoint blast in 2010.”
Also in 2010, Majid Shahriar, a nuclear engineer, was killed by a bomb. Another scientist was also targeted, but survived.
In 2007, nuclear scientist Ardeshir Hosseinpour dropped dead after being poisoned. Reports have varied about what happened to Hosseinpour as some have claimed that he was targeted by Israel while his sister claims that he was killed by Iran for allegedly refusing to work on the nation’s nuclear projects.
The elimination of Fakhrizadeh may make it significantly harder for the incoming-Biden administration to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, a flawed deal that lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran accepting limits on its nuclear program.
“The Israelis may well be betting that they win either way. If Iran holds off on significant retaliation, then the bold move to take out the chief of the nuclear program will have paid off, even if the assassination drives the program further underground,” The New York Times reported. “And if the Iranians retaliate, giving Mr. Trump a pretext to launch a return strike before he leaves office in January, Mr. Biden will be inheriting bigger problems than just the wreckage of a five-year-old diplomatic document.”