Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing of a scientist linked to Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear programme, according to his official website. He said Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist”.
Iran has blamed Israel for the killing. Israel, long suspected of killing scientists a decade ago amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme, has yet to comment on the developments.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani accused Israel of acting as a “mercenary” for the US, blaming it for the assassination. “Once again, the wicked hands of the global arrogance, with the usurper Zionist regime as the mercenary, were stained with the blood of a son of this nation,” Rouhani said in a statement.
The slaying threatens to renew tensions between the US and Iran in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term.
Rouhani said Fakhrizadeh’s death won’t stop its nuclear programme. Iran’s civilian nuclear programme has continued its experiments and enriches uranium up to 4.5% – far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.
“We will respond to the assassination of martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time,” Rouhani said.
The attack happened in Absard, a village east of Tehran that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. State television said a truck with bombs hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.
US aircraft carrier USS Nimitz was deployed to the Gulf this week, days before the killing, although the US Navy said on Saturday the deployment was not related to any specific threat.