The sons of slain Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh said their father was shot four or five times during his assassination, in an interview broadcast by Iranian state media on Friday.
Fakhrizadeh, the scientist said by Israel and the US to head Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, was killed in a military-style ambush last week on the outskirts of Tehran. The attack reportedly saw a truck bomb explode and gunmen open fire on Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle.
Iran has accused Israel of carrying out the November 27 hit and threatened revenge. Israel has not publicly commented on the allegations that it was responsible.
In the interview broadcast by Iran’s IRIB news, Fakhrizadeh’s two sons said the assassination “was really like a war,” according to a translation by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster. The sons were apparently not with Fakhrizadeh during the assassination, although some early reports said members of his family were traveling with him.
The sons said Fakhrizadeh’s wife, apparently their mother, was sitting next to him when he was shot, but was not hit by bullets herself. An earlier New York Times report said Fakhrizadeh’s wife had received shrapnel wounds during the attack.
“My father was hit four, five times by gunfire,” one of Fakhrizadeh’s sons said.
— خبرآنلاين (@khabaronlinee) December 4, 2020
The sons, who were not identified by first name in the Kan report, said Fakhrizaden had been warned by his security team against traveling on the day of the assassination, but that he had gone out anyway for a meeting.
Their account of a gun battle appeared to contradict claims by Iranian officials that Fakhrizadeh was killed by an Israeli-produced weapon controlled remotely by satellite. Critics saw the claims as a way for the regime to evade responsibility for not preventing the assassination and not capturing the assassins.
The slaying threatened to renew tensions between the United States and Iran in the waning days of US President Donald Trump’s term, just as President-elect Joe Biden has suggested his administration could return to Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers from which Trump earlier withdrew.
Fakhrizadeh was named by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 as the director of Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons project. When Netanyahu revealed then that Israel had removed from a warehouse in Tehran a vast archive of Iran’s own material detailing its nuclear weapons program, he said: “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”
Fakhrizadeh was also an officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated by the US as a terrorist organization.
Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago, in a bid to curtail Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program. It has made no official comment on the matter. Israeli TV coverage noted that last week’s attack was far more complex than any of the previous incidents.
Israeli officials have warned Israeli citizens traveling abroad that they may be targets of Iranian terror attacks in the wake of the killing, and cautioned former Israeli nuclear scientists they could be in Iran’s crosshairs.