Remarkable detail of the elaborate plot to assassinate ‘prominent and distinguished’ Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been leaked – as the rogue nation claim Israel is behind the hit.
Fakhrizadeh – dubbed the ‘father’ of Iran’s bomb programme – was shot dead in his car by 12 highly-trained assassins following an explosion in the city of Absard, 50 miles east of Tehran.
The killers – which included a pair of snipers – formed part of a 62-person strong group of plotters. The remaining 50 people were responsible for logistical support.
Extraordinary detail about Fakhrizadeh’s final moments have been revealed by Iranian journalist Mohamad Ahwaze who claims he received leaked information from the country’s authorities.
Fakhrizadeh’s death sent tensions in the regions skyrocketing as Iran has repeatedly blamed Israel’s national intelligence agency Mossad for the the assassination – with several prominent figures vowing revenge.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who has the final say on all matters of state – yesterday said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the ‘definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.’ He did not elaborate.
And, in an intervention that risks inflaming conflict even further, a former head of the US’s Central Intelligence Agency labelled the assassination a ‘criminal’ act and branded it ‘highly reckless’.
John Brennan – who was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017 under President Barack Obama – said he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Fakhrizadeh but said it was ‘a criminal act and highly reckless’.
He warned the killing ‘risks lethal retaliation and a new round of regional conflict’.
One American official and two other intelligence officials also told the New York Times that Israel was behind the attack.
Remarkable detail of the elaborate plot to assassinate ‘prominent and distinguished’ Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been leaked (pictured) – as the rogue nation claim Israel is behind the hit
Fakhrizadeh – dubbed the ‘father’ of Iran’s bomb programme – was shot dead in his car by 12 highly-trained assassins following an explosion in the city of Absard, 50 miles east of Tehran. Pictured: Ebrahim Raisi – head of Iran’s judiciary – and family members of Fakhrizadeh stand by his body
The killers – which included a pair of snipers – formed part of a 62-person strong group of plotters. The remaining 50 people were responsible for logistical support. Pictured: The aftermath of the assassination
Extraordinary detail about Fakhrizadeh’s final moments have been revealed by Iranian journalist Mohamad Ahwaze who claims he received leaked information from the country’s authorities. Pictured: The aftermath of the attack
Ahwaze said the attack was planned for for a roundabout in Absard, at the foot of a tree-lined boulevard which enters the city. Pictured: The aftermath of the attack
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (left) was killed in an ambush involving an explosion and then machine gun fire on a road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital of Tehran on Friday. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) has vowed revenge
Ahwaze said the attack was planned for for a roundabout in Absard, at the foot of a tree-lined boulevard which enters the city.
The team had been watching Fakhrizadeh, and knew that he was going to be driving from Tehran to Absard on Friday.
The mountain retreat of 10,000 people is where many well-off Tehranis have second homes, and Fakhrizadeh, 59, had a villa there.
The 12 assassins – described as being highly-trained and assisted by ‘security and intelligence services abroad’ – were deployed to Absard while the remaining 50 people in the 62-person strong group helped with logistical support. He did not specify whether they were in Iran, or abroad.
Protesters burn pictures of US President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump during a demonstration against the killing of Fakhrizadeh
Protesters burn US and Israel flags during a demonstration against Fakhrizadeh’s assassination. Iran has blamed Israel for the attack
A group of demonstrators clutch signs – one reading ‘down with Israel’ – as they gather to protest the assassination in Tehran
Demonstrators are seen gathering at a protest site in Habboubi Square in Iraq’s southern city of Nasiriyah on Saturday
A Hyundai Santa Fe with four passengers, four motorcyles and two snipers were waiting for Fakhrizadeh at the scene of the ambush – along with a booby-trapped Nissan pickup.
Half an hour before Fakhrizadeh’s convoy of three bulletproof cars arrived, the electricity was cut off to the area, Ahwaze reported. The team were in place when the first car passed the roundabout.
As the third car passes, the Nissan explodes, damaging electricity poles and transmitters, according to a state TV report from the area on Friday night.
The force of the explosion from the bomb hurled debris at least 300 meters, state television claimed.
The second car, containing Fakhrizadeh, was then shot at by the 12 assassins, including two snipers.
The gunmen with the hit squad opened fire on the cars, and an intense gunfight ensued, according to Sepah Cybery, a social media channel affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Ahwaze tweeted: ‘According to Iranian leaks, the leader of the assassination team took Fakhrizadeh out of his car and shot him and made sure he was killed.’
The hit squad then vanished, having sustained no losses to their team, Ahwaze reported.
Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi pays respect to Fakhrizadeh on Saturday alongside the slain scientist’s family
Residents told state television that they heard the sound of a big explosion followed by intense machine gun fire as Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards fought back.
They knew the man they were protecting had for years been Mossad’s number one target.
A police helicopter landed in the area to transport Fakhrizadeh and others to the hospital, according to a video posted by a resident who narrates the video saying ‘several people are dead.’
When members of Fakhrizadeh’s security detail arrived in hospital, they were surprised to find that there was no electricity, after the power had been cut. They are then transported to Tehran.
The masters of ‘wet work’: Israeli agents are feared for covert assassination ops
Israel has often favoured covert ‘wet work’ tactics against its enemies – including assassinations.
The country’s national intelligence agency Mossad has been accused carrying out attacks on members of Palestinian fundamentalist group Hamas in recent years.
Prominent Iranian figures have also been targets – several of which have been nuclear scientists.
Within the agency is an elite unit known as Kidon – or ‘tip of the spear – which is widely-understood to be responsible for assassinations.
The group has been dubbed an ‘an elite group of expert assassins’ – but little is known about them or how they operate.
Alleged Mossad attacks tend to be quick and clean, including killings where the assassin is on the back of a motorcycle for an easy getaway.
Mossad hits are also usually outside of Israel – further reducing the chances that the attacks will be tied to the state.
Choosing the assassination target is a complicated process involving Mossad itself, the Israeli intelligence community and those in the highest seats of Government.
The military can also play a role in picking a target.
Below are some alleged – and confirmed – attacks against Iranians by the Israeli state.
February 12, 2013 – Hassan Shateri – who went by the pseudonym Hussam Khoshnevis – was a major general of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria.
January 11, 2012 – Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was assassinated in a motorbike bomb attack in Tehran. Mossad are allegedly responsible.
November 12, 2011 – General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed – along with 17 other Revolutionary Guard members – in an explosion at a missile base in Tehran.
Moghaddam was the mind behind Iran’s ballistic missile forces.
Iranian officials themselves have insisted the explosion was an accident and said there was no Israeli involvement – but some reports have accused Mossad of being behind it.
July 23, 2011 – Iranian electrical engineer Darioush Rezaeinejad was allegedly killed by a Mossad operative on a motorcycle in Tehran.
He helped to develop high-voltage switches used in nuclear weaponry.
January 12, 2010 – Iranian Physicist Masoud Alimohammadi was killed in a car bomb.
A man later appeared in court claiming Massad hired him to kill Alimohammadi. US officials rubbished the allegations.
At 10:28am EST (7:30pm local time) on Friday, the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said that ‘an eminent Iranian scientist’ had been killed, with the suspected aid of Israel.
Fakhrizadeh’s body lay in a flag-draped, open coffin at a mosque on Saturday in central Tehran, where Iran’s chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, prayed over his body in a public spectacle of mourning.
His death sent tensions in the region skyrocketing as Iran accused Israel of trying to provoke a war by killing the scientist – who Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: ‘Remember that name’.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday called Fakhrizadeh ‘the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist.’
Khamenei – who has the final say on all matters of state – said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the ‘definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.’ He did not elaborate.
And, in an intervention that risks inflaming conflict even further, a former head of the US’s Central Intelligence Agency labelled the assassination a ‘criminal’ act and branded it ‘highly reckless’.
John Brennan – who was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017 under the administration of president Barack Obama – said he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Fakhrizadeh but labeled it a ‘criminal’ act.
President Hassan Rouhani said Israel was to blame in a televised speech on Saturday, and said Iran would retaliate for the killing of Fakhrizadeh at ‘the proper time’.
Rouhani said: ‘Our people are wiser than to fall in the trap of the Zionist regime (Israel).
‘Iran will surely respond to the martyrdom of our scientist at the proper time.’
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the U.N. Security Council on Friday, Iranian envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi wrote: ‘Warning against any adventuristic measures by the United States and Israel against my country, particularly during the remaining period of the current administration of the United States in office, the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its rights to take all necessary measures to defend its people and secure its interests.’
The proxy war between Israel and Iran has predominately remained in the realm of verbal hostility and threats.
Israel is suspicious of Iran’s nuclear capabilities – and seeks to reduce the impact of its allies and proxies.
The country has been accused of using covert ‘wet work’ tactics in its mission against Iran – including assassinations.
Friday’s attack comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari.
Tehran also blamed attack on Israel too as it came at the height of Western fears over Iran’s nuclear program.
Hossein Dehghan – who is a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election as well as an adviser to its supreme leader Ali Khamenei – echoed the claim that Israel was behind the attack.
‘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,’ Mr Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to US President Donald Trump’s last days in office.
It comes amid fears that the Trump administration could order a strike on Iran in the weeks before the president relinquishes power to President-Elect Joe Biden.
Dehghan added: ‘We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions.’
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said Israel was to blame for the ambush in a televised speech on Saturday, and said Iran would retaliate for the killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi at ‘the proper time’.
Rouhani said: ‘Our people are wiser than to fall in the trap of the Zionist regime (Israel) … Iran will surely respond to the martyrdom of our scientist at the proper time.’
Rouhani said that Fakhrizadeh’s death would not stop its nuclear program, something Supreme Leader Khamenei said as well.
Tehran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had suggested Israel was behind the attack, in which he said ‘Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist’.
Zarif wrote on Twitter: ‘This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.
Former director of the US Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan called the assassination of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, a top Iranian nuclear scientist, ‘criminal’ and ‘reckless’
‘Iran calls on the international community – and especially the EU – to end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.’
Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
Donald Trump retweeted the New York Times article claiming one American official and two other intelligence officials confirmed that Israel was behind the attack.
He also retweeted Israeli journalist Yossi Melman who called the killing ‘a major psychological and professional blow for Iran’.
‘Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been assassinated in Damavand, east of Tehran according to reports in Iran. He was head of Iran’s secret military program and wanted for many years by Mossad. His death is a major psychological and professional blow for Iran,’ Melman had tweeted.’
Brennan also took to Twitter, claiming that while he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, it was ‘a criminal act’.
‘This was a criminal act and highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation and a new round of regional conflict,’ he tweeted.
‘I do not know whether a foreign government authorized or carried out the murder of Fakhrizadeh.
Iran’s vow to seek revenge on Fakhrizadeh’s killers comes amid fears that the Trump administration could order a strike on Iran in the weeks before the president relinquishes power to President-Elect Joe Biden
‘Such an act of state-sponsored terrorism would be a flagrant violation of international law & encourage more governments to carry out lethal attacks against foreign officials.’
Brennan noted that Fakhrizadeh was not a designated terrorist nor a member of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State group, designated terror groups which would be legal targets.
A strong critic of President Donald Trump, Brennan urged Tehran to ‘resist the urge’ to retaliate and ‘wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage,’ a reference to November 3 election winner Joe Biden, who will replace Trump on January 20.
Brennan was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017, under the administration of president Barack Obama and then-vice president Biden.
Brennan did not take part in Biden’s election campaign and has not appeared to be involved in his preparations for taking office on January 20.
But early this week Biden named Brennan’s former deputy director at the CIA, Avril Haines, as his director of national intelligence.
The United States military on Friday said it had deployed the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (its flight deck, pictured on Wednesday) to the Persian Gulf alongside other warships in order to provide ‘combat support and air cover’ for soldiers withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan
The decision to deploy the Nimitz (pictured on Wednesday) to the Persian Gulf was reportedly made before the killing of Fakhrizadeh
The United States military on Friday said it had deployed the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to the Persian Gulf alongside other warships in order to provide ‘combat support and air cover’ for soldiers withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The decision to deploy the Nimitz to the Persian Gulf was reportedly made before the killing of Fakhrizadeh.
Israel has so far declined to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.
Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was named in UN sanctions resolutions because of his work as head of Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research group in 2007.
The US charges that the organization – known by its Farsi acronym SPND – oversees nuclear-relevant research for Iran and is active in the training of new scientists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as boss of the SPND during a news conference in 2018.
In 2007, he was revealed to be the chairman of the Field for the Expansion of Deployment of Advanced Technology (FEDAT) in a leaked Iranian document.
The FEDAT was the cover name for the organisation behind Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
The leaked document purported to show the country’s four-year plan to develop a uranium deuteride neutron initiator.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called ‘Amad,’ or ‘Hope’ program.
Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that ‘Amad’ program ended in the early 2000s. IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of Iran’s now-unraveling nuclear deal with world power.
Senior Israeli officials this week predicted ‘a very sensitive period’ in the coming weeks – ahead of President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
In a bid to be cautious, Israel is reportedly preparing for potential retaliation from Iran, Axios reports.
Earlier this month, Trump held an Oval Office meeting where he was ‘talked out of’ launching strikes on Iran after a previous UN report showed a massive increase in nuclear stockpiles in breach of the Obama-era pact which Trump abandoned in 2018.
Defence sources told The New York Times that Trump asked for options on a bombardment – likely to have targeted Iran’s foremost nuclear facility, Natanz.
And just last week, a report by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed Iran has fired up advanced uranium centrifuges installed at its underground Natanz site.
Tehran was revealed to be pumping nuclear fuel into high-tech IR-2m machines at Natanz, in contravention of an international deal to only use first generation IR-1 machines.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh has lead many to speculate that he is ‘Iran’s nuclear Qassem Soleimani’.
Soleimani, a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was assassinated in a US drone strike in January this year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once warned the world to ‘remember that name’
The deputy leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement said on Friday that the response for the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was in Iran’s hands.
‘We condemn this heinous attack and see that the response to this crime is in the hands of those concerned in Iran,’ Sheikh Naim Qassem said in an interview with Al Manar television.
He said Fakhrizadeh was killed by ‘those sponsored by America and Israel’ and said the assassination was part of a war on Iran and the region. Iran pointed the finger at Israel after Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush near the Iranian capital Tehran on Friday. Israel declined to comment.
Earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Iran’s allies in the region should be in a state of high readiness in case of any ‘American or Israeli folly’ during the remainder of U.S. President Donald Trump’s term.
Asked whether Israel could attack Lebanon during that time, Qassem said he did not believe so but that if it did Hezbollah was ‘fully prepared’ for a confrontation.
Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006.
Qassem said it was unlikely there would be a direct strike on Iran as it would ‘ignite the whole region’.
‘We cannot rule out the possibility of a limited attack and the Iranians are ready for this and more, but I don’t see an all-out war on the horizon,’ he said.