Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has blamed Israel for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Fakhrizadeh was described by Western officials as the “father” of the Iran’s atomic weapons programme.
"Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance were stained with the blood of the mercenary usurper Zionist regime," Rouhani said in a statement, according to Reuters, citing state TV.
He added: "The assassination of martyr (Mohsen) Fakhrizadeh shows our enemies' despair and the depth of their hatred... His martyrdom will not slow down our achievements."
Fakhrizadeh, 59 was the head of Iran's nuclear program. He was assassinated in Damavand, east of Tehran, Iran confirmed on Friday afternoon. According to reports, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a man who “avoided the limelight.” Born in the city of Qom, he was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was a Brigadier General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reports say.
"The nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated today by terrorists," the Iranian Defense Ministry wrote in a statement, not blaming any specific entity for the incident.
However, both Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iran's UN envoy later stated Friday that a "serious indication" pointed to Israeli involvement, with Zarif also urging the international community to condemn the attack, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Many key personalities linked to the Iranian nuclear program have also been targeted over the years. In 2012 an Iranian nuclear scientist was also killed in Tehran. Earlier this year, in June and July, several mysterious explosions targeted Iran’s missile program near Khojir and at the nuclear site at Natanz.
“It seems that Tehran has become a Mossad street corner,” wrote one man on Twitter.
A military adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei accused Israel of trying to provoke "a full-blown" war by killing Fakhrizadeh.
"In the last days of the political life of their ... ally (US President Donald Trump), the Zionists (Israel) seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war," commander Hossein Dehghan tweeted.
"We will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action," Dehghan added.
"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," Iran's UN envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi, wrote in the letter, which was seen by Reuters.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged restraint on Friday evening, before the Iranian letter had been sent.
“We have noted the reports that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated near Tehran today. We urge restraint and the need to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region,” Guterres’ spokesman Farhan Haq said.
"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.
"News sources say a scientist has been the victim of an assassination attempt in an armed attack by unknown people on his team of bodyguards," Iranian state television said in rolling coverage of the incident.
"Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving him, and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle," a statement by Iran's armed forces carried by state media said.
In 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “remember that name,” referring to Fakhrizadeh, after he announced that the Mossad had obtained 100,000 files from Iran's secret nuclear archives.
In 2003, Iran was forced to shelve Project Amad, but not its nuclear ambitions. It split its program into an overt program and a covert one that continued the nuclear work under the title of scientific know how development, Netanyahu said at the time.
It continued this work in a series of organizations, which in 2018 were led by SPND, an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry led by the same person who led Project Amad – Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Netanyahu said. (With inputs from The Jerusalem Post)