Tehran: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday accused Israel’s archenemy Israel of acting as a “mercenary” for the United States and accused the Jewish state of assassinating one of Tehran’s most famous nuclear scientists.
The Iranian Ministry of Defense said the attackers pointed witnesses at his car on Friday and engaged in a gun battle with his bodyguards, causing serious injuries.
“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 on his official website.
Iran, a major Shiite power, generally uses the term “global arrogance” to refer to the United States.
Rouhani vowed that his death “does not disrupt” Iran’s scientific progress and said the killing was due to the “weakness and inability” of Tehran’s enemies to impede its growth.
He expressed condolences to the “scientific community and the revolutionary people of Iran”.
The Ministry of Defense said that Fakhrizadeh, who was in charge of the research and innovation organization, died after medical staff failed to resurrect him.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that “there are serious signs of the role of Israel in secret”.
The United States slapped sanctions on Fakhrizadeh in 2008 for “activities and transactions that contributed to the development of Iran’s nuclear programme”, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once described him as the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Fakhrizadeh was attacked while travelling near the city of Absard in Adamavand County, eastern Tehran Province.
The New York Times said that a US official and two other intelligence officials confirmed that Israel was behind the attack, but did not provide more details.
The Lebanese Hezbollah stated earlier on Saturday that it “strongly condemns the terrorist actions that led to the difficulties of the distinguished scientist and university professor Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.”
The powerful Shia movement added that it requires the Almighty God to join his martyrs and scholars’ predecessors, especially those who betrayed by the murders and terrorism of Zionists and international gangs, to raise him to The highest level.
In recent years, the Islamic Republic blamed Israel for the killing of Fahrizad. This is the latest in a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists by Iran.
Former CIA director John Brennan warned on Friday the assassination risked sparking a wider conflagration in the Middle East.
“This was a criminal act and highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation and a new round of regional conflict,” Brennan tweeted.
The assassination comes less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is to take office.
Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began re-imposing crippling sanctions.