The sons of slain Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh claimed to reveal new details of their father’s November assassination, saying in an interview broadcast by Iranian state media on Saturday that he was traveling in an unarmored car when he came under fire.
Fakhrizadeh, the scientist said by Israel and the US to head Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, was killed in an apparent military-style ambush four months ago on the outskirts of Tehran. There have been various reports of the details of the attack, including a reported truck bomb exploding and gunmen opening 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 for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, Fakhrizadeh’s two sons said their father was driving with his wife — apparently, their mother — sitting next to him when he heard a noise that he thought was a flat tire. “When he stopped the car, the gunfire started,” they said, according to a translation by Israel’s Channel 12 news.
The sons, who were not identified by first name in the Channel 12 report, said that Fakhrizadeh was not hit right away but that his windshield was smashed, as he was driving in an unarmored car. An earlier New York Times report said Fakhrizadeh’s wife had received shrapnel wounds during the attack.
Fleeing to a second car in the convoy, he was hit once by the gunfire, they described. His wife then ran to him before he was hit three more times, fatally.
The sons were apparently not with Fakhrizadeh during the assassination, although some early reports said members of his family were traveling with him.
The new details largely match the account of the event given by the sons in December, but 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.
Last month, London’s Jewish Chronicle reported that Fakhrizadeh was assassinated by a Mossad team using a one-ton automated weapon that had been smuggled into Iran in pieces.
The US was not involved in the operation, which may have set back the rogue Iranian nuclear weapons program by years, the report said.
The veracity of the report could not be independently confirmed.
The team that carried out the hit had over 20 members, both Israeli and Iranian nationals, the Jewish Chronicle reported, citing “intelligence sources.” At least some of those sources were evidently Israeli; one was quoted saying, “Thank God, we got all our people out and they didn’t catch anyone. They didn’t even come close.”
It said agents were on the ground at the time of the assassination to operate the gun from a distance.
The report claimed Fakhrizadeh was hit by a burst of 13 bullets from the “hyper-accurate” weapon, which did not injure his wife or 12 bodyguards who were traveling with him. Some of the contradictory reports of the killing at the time, by contrast, claimed several of Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards were also killed in the attack.
The weapon was mounted on the back of a Nissan truck and detonated to destroy evidence after the assassination, the report claimed. “The bespoke weapon, operated remotely by agents on the ground as they observed the target, was so heavy because it included a bomb that destroyed the evidence after the killing,” it added.
The killing came after months of mysterious explosions in Iran, including a blast and fire that crippled an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, which is widely believed to have been an act of sabotage allegedly carried out by Israel.
Israel has been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists, as long as nearly a decade ago, purportedly in a bid to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.
Fakhrizadeh was named by Netanyahu in 2018 as the director of Iran’s 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 with its nuclear weapons program, he said: “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”