Remote-Control Killing: Iran Says Top Nuclear Scientist Assassinated By
Gun Guided Via Satellite
December 8, 2020
A machine gun equipped with a "satellite-controlled smart system" was
used to kill Iran's top nuclear scientist, a senior official with the
country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has said.
Officials have blamed Israel for the brazen, daytime attack on November
27 in Absard, some 60 kilometers from the capital, Tehran, though it
didn't offer any evidence for the claim.
Israel, which has been blamed for the assassination of at least four
other Iranian nuclear scientists, has not commented on the attack.
Speaking in Tehran on December 6, IRGC Deputy Commander Ali Fadavi said
the smart system had "zoomed in" on Fakhrizadeh's face using "artificial
intelligence" while adding that Fakhrizadeh's wife -- who was only "25
centimeters away" -- was unharmed.
Fadavi confirmed earlier reports that there were no assassins on the
ground to carry out the killing.
He said the special weapon fired a total of 13 times, hitting
Fakhrizadeh four or five times, including a shot to his spinal cord that
caused severe bleeding and led to his death as he was being transported
via helicopter to a Tehran hospital.
Four bullets also hit the chief of Fakhrizadeh's security detail, who
had attempted to protect him by "throwing himself" on the nuclear
scientist, Fadavi said. That confirmed media reports that one of
Fakhrizadeh's bodyguards had been injured in the attack.
He also said that 11 bodyguards were accompanying Fakhrizadeh and that
the explosion of a truck during the attack targeted the security team.
Fadavi's account is the latest version of the assassination that has
resulted in serious criticism of Iran's security apparatus.
Initial reports immediately after the killing suggested that the
scientist was targeted in a suicide attack, which included several
gunmen. But media later only reported that the assault included gunfire
and a truck explosion.
A filmmaker close to the hard-line faction of Iran's establishment,
which also includes the IRGC and other groups, said hours after the
attack that 12 gunmen, including two snipers and a powerful car bomb,
were involved in the ambush of Fakhrizadeh's four-vehicle convoy.
Later, the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency reported that there were no
hitmen on the ground and that the attack was carried out by a
remote-controlled machine gun mounted on a pickup truck that later
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani had also said
there were no attackers on the ground while blaming Israel and
suggesting the exiled Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq
Organzation had played a role.
In an interview with state-controlled television, one of Fakhrizadeh's
sons, Hamed Fakhrizadeh, said his father had been warned by his security
team on the day he was assassinated not to travel.
But the top scientist, who kept a low-profile, had said that, due to a
class he was teaching as well as an "important meeting," he needed to
return to Tehran.
'Full-Blown War Zone'
Hamed Fakhrizadeh described the scene of the assassination, which he
came to shortly after the attack, as a "full-blown war zone."
His brother, Mehdi Fakhirzadeh, said in the same interview that his
father was shot at a close range of four or five meters and that their
mother, who he said had sat on the ground next to Fakhrizadeh, was
"She said 'I don't understand how the bullets didn't hit me. I went
there so that the bullets would not hit [Fakhrizadeh],'" he quoted his
mother as having said.
The comments could either confirm Fadavi's account regarding a
"satellite-controlled" weapon equipped with facial-recognition
technology or suggest that snipers shot and killed the nuclear
Fakhrizadeh's assassination and the various accounts of how it was
carried out have raised many questions, including the possible presence
of "infiltrators" within Iran's security apparatus who would have
precise information about the movement of the country's leading nuclear
scientist, who was mentioned by name in a 2018 presentation by Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If the official account regarding the remote-controlled killing is true,
it is clear that the attack was well-planned and that someone had
installed the alleged "remote-controlled" gun and a bomb on the truck
before driving it to the site of the assassination. Some reports said
the owner of the Nissan pickup truck had left Iran shortly before the
One major question is how the special equipment needed for the
sophisticated attack was smuggled into Iran.
is also not clear why Fakhrizadeh -- who knew that he was a wanted man
due to his role in the country's nuclear program and who, according to
officials, had survived previous failed assassination attempts -- had
decided to get out of his vehicle during the attack. It's especially
strange because several media accounts say his vehicle was bullet-proof.
Fakhrizadeh's sons confirmed earlier reports that their father left his
vehicle because he thought it had broken down after hearing the bullets
hitting the car.
But it is unclear why he didn't ask someone on his security team to find
out what was happening instead of putting himself at risk by leaving the
Officials have vowed to avenge Fakhrizadevh's killing, which came nearly
a year after the U.S. assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, who led
the IRGC Quds Force in charge of the group's regional activities.
Soleimani was killed in a drone attack near Baghdad in January in an
attack that the U.S. claimed responsibility for.