DUBAI, Nov 27 — Prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was injured in an assassination attempt near Tehran today and was being treated in a hospital, Iranian media reported.
Fakhrizadeh has long been suspected by Western, Israeli and Iranian exile foes of the Islamic Republic to have masterminded what they said was a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.
The semi-official Fars News Agency, affiliated with Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, named the nuclear scientist injured in the reported attack as Fakhrizadeh.
Shortly before, several Iranian news outlets including state broadcaster IRIB said a nuclear and missile scientist had been assassinated in an attack. But there was no official confirmation of a death, and Tehran’s nuclear energy body said there had been no incident involving a nuclear scientist.
“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.
Fakhrizadeh is thought to have headed what the UN nuclear watchdog and US intelligence services believe was a coordinated nuclear weapons programme in Iran shelved in 2003.
He has the rare distinction of being the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear programme and whether it was aimed at developing a nuclear bomb.
The IAEA’s report said that he oversaw activities “in support of a possible military dimension to (Iran’s) nuclear programme” within the so-called AMAD Plan.
Israel has also described the AMAD Plan as Iran’s secret nuclear weapons programme, and says it seized a large chunk of an Iranian nuclear “archive” detailing its work.
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a 2018 speech revealing details from the archive, naming Fakhrizadeh as AMAD’s chief.
Netanyahu said that after AMAD was shut down Fakhrizadeh continued working at an organisation within Iran’s Defence Ministry on “special projects”. — Reuters