“This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Iran calls on int’l community – and especially EU – to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.”
Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name.” Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.
Fakhrizadeh has long been described by Western countries as a leader of a covert atomic bomb program halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States accuse Tehran of trying to restore in secret. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.
The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard, said the attack happened in Absard, a small city just east of Tehran. It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh was in, the agency said.
Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.
State television on its website later published a photograph of security forces blocking off the road. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through the windshield and blood pooled on the road.
The death comes two days after Australian university lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert was released from jail in Iran, in exchange for three Iranian men linked to a botched 2012 bomb plot in Bangkok.
Iranian authorities had detained Moore-Gilbert after discovering she was in a relationship with an Israeli citizen, sparking baseless claims that she was a spy for Israel. She was held for two years before she was released, and arrived back in Australia on Friday.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on Fakhrizadeh on Friday. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called “Amad,” or “Hope” program. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that the “Amad” program ended in the early 2000s. IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of Iran’s now-unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.
AP, with Reuters and Megan Levy