Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist, has been assassinated near Tehran, the country’s defense ministry has confirmed.
He died in hospital after an attack in Absard, in Damavand county.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has condemned the killing “as an act of state terror”.
Western intelligence agencies believe Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was behind a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Iran insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
However, news of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s killing comes amid fresh concern about the increased amount of enriched uranium that Iran is producing. Enriched uranium is a vital component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons.
A 2015 deal with six world powers had placed limits on its production, but since President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, Iran has been deliberately reneging on its agreements.
President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reengage with Iran when he takes over the US presidency in January, despite longstanding opposition from Israel .
Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated and Iran has accused Israel of complicity in the killings.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s name was specifically mentioned in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation about Iran’s nuclear program in May 2018.
There has been no comment from Israel on the news of the assassination. The Pentagon has also declined to comment, according to Reuters.
In a statement on November 27, Iran’s defense ministry said: “Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry’s research and innovation organization.
“After a clash between the terrorists and his bodyguards, Mr. Fakhrizadeh was severely injured and rushed to hospital.
“Unfortunately, the medical team’s efforts to save him were unsuccessful and minutes ago he passed away.”
Iranian media reports said the attackers opened fire on the scientist in his car.
Fars news agency earlier reported there was a car explosion in Absard town, with witnesses reporting that “three to four individuals, who are said to have been terrorists, were killed”.