‘State terror’ behind the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizade

One of Iran’s foremost scientist was killed this morning following a targeted attack. He was injured when his car was hit, and died later in hospital from his injuries. Foreign diplomats describe him as the "father of the Iranian bomb". Israel has not yet issued any comment.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An “act of state terror” is how Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the murder in Tehran of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, one of Iran’s most important nuclear scientists.

Seen as the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear programme in the 2000s, he died in hospital from the injuries he sustained in an attack near Absard, Damavand County.

According to Western intelligence agencies, he was one of the most prominent scientists of the Islamic Republic, playing a key role in the development of its secret nuclear weapons programme. Many foreign diplomats referred to him as "the father of the Iranian bomb".

Iran has seen other targeted assassination of its military officers and scientists. Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were killed under mysterious circumstances.

Iran has accused Israel in connection with these attacks, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specifically mentioned Fakhrizadeh when he denounced Iran's nuclear programme.

Fakhrizadeh was hit when his car was attacked not far from Tehran by a group, Iranian authorities described as “terrorists”. He died a few hours later in hospital from his injuries.

Few details are currently available about the attack or its authors. However, in a statement on Friday, Iran's Defence Ministry said: "Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry's research and innovation organisation.” His bodyguards fired back trying to protect the scientist.

On tweeter, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif also said that, “Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. “Such “cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.”

Zarif called on the international community to "condemn this act of state terror". Israel has so far not issued any comment.

In May 2018, outgoing US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by his predecessor President Barack Obama, which he followed with the toughest sanctions in history.

This has had a major negative impact on Iran’s economy  and its oil revenues, compounded this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the end of the nuclear deal, Iran threatened to resume uranium enrichment, ostensibly for civilian purposes. In fact, it has already exceeded its low-enriched uranium reserves, now 12 times higher than the limits allowed under the agreement.

With the prospect of a Biden administration, Iranian leaders last week said that Iran might fully return to the nuclear agreement if President-elect Joe Biden cancels the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.