Two retired Iranian officials have told IranWire that the latest account of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s assassination is “a lie”. Claims that the top nuclear scientist was attacked with a remote-controlled weapon, and that he had got out of his car to check his wife’s condition after initial shots were fired last Friday, are – according to these two informed sources – “unbelievable”.
It comes today as the English-language arm of Press TV, an Iranian government-controlled media outlet, has reported that the weapon used in the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was “made in Israel".
Amid a deluge of different narratives and speculation about the killing, the Israeli intelligence minister Eli Cohen has also told a British radio station that he did not know who was responsible for the death of Fakhrizadeh.
Two retired Iranian officials, who asked not to be named, have told IranWire that the official account of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's assassination is “a lie”.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was one of the principal figures behind the Iranian nuclear program. He was assassinated on Friday, November 27 after the car he was travelling in was ambushed in Absard, Damavand county, about 80 km east of Tehran.
Over the weekend Iranian state-controlled media repeated claims that the shots initially fired at Fakhrizadeh’s car had come from a remotely-operated machinegun mounted on a Nissan pick-up truck, which exploded with a self-destruct mechanism. It was further claimed that Fakhrizadeh then stepped out of his car, wanting to check on the status of his wife, before being shot.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Since the incident, however, several Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani have openly blamed Israel and warned that Iran will retaliate “at the proper time”.
The two retired Iranian officials who spoke to IranWire said that for the past 40 years, one of the first rules of personal security training for Iranian government employees has been to “never get out of the car”. “All government officials,” one of them said, “especially high-ranking ones, are told at the first meeting never to get out of the car during a car accident or on hearing the sound of an explosion – unless it happens inside the car, or, for example, if there is smoke inside the car or they smell something strange."
These orders have ben in place since the early 1980s, when the People’s Mojahedin Organization [MKO] and other groups were targeting officials of the Islamic Republic. "It is unbelievable that the main version of events is that he got out of the car on hearing the sound of gunfire, due to concerns about his wife,” the same official said, “because even if he had wanted to get out, his guards would not have let him.
"All the security forces are now blaming one another – and spreading the ridiculous hypothesis that the assassination took place with an automatic weapon. The real problem is that corruption has penetrated deep into the system, and it is very easy for Israelis to buy a few people for a million dollars and assassinate our officials.
“In this situation, many sincere and knowledgeable officers of the Ministry of Intelligence are discouraged, and are not even willing to collaborate with the system as advisers."
IranWire understands that a large number of people who had a connection with Fakhrizadeh are currently being interrogated. They include his colleagues at the Ministry of Defense and Imam Hossein University, their family members, family members of the military officers, and many residents of Damavand.
Different and Contradictory Narratives
In an explosive article on the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh published earlier today, the Iranian state-controlled news outlet Press TV cited an “informed source” – whom it did not name – as saying that “the weapon collected from the site of the terrorist act bears the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry”.
Yesterday, the intelligence ministry had announced “the discovery of clues" about the assassination but did not publish any further details.
A range of divergent claims about Fakhrizadeh's assassination have been published in the Iranian media since last Friday. In the latest of these, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, has said that intelligence services had previously received “information" that Fakhrizadeh could be the target of a “terrorist act”, together with the location of the would-be attack. The place they were told the operation would be carried out, he said, was “exactly the place where he was martyred."
Shamkhani went on: "They [the intelligence services] knew that an operation was going to be carried out against this martyr, in this place. The necessary reinforcements had been brought in for his protection team. But this time, the enemy used a completely new, professional method, and unfortunately they were able to succeed.”
Shamkhani had also claimed that the assassination operation was "very complicated and carried out with electronic equipment", adding: "No one was present at the scene." He also intimated that the People's Mojahedin Organization [MKO], Israel and the Israeli intelligence service Mossad were behind the assassination.
Yesterday evening Fars News Agency repeated Shamkhani’s claim that the attack had been carried out remotely, stating: “No human agents were present at the scene of the assassination and the shootings were carried out only with automatic weapons."
Also on Sunday, however, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, himself a nuclear scientist and currently head of the Iranian parliament’s Energy Committee, said in a speech that the assailants had intended to kill Mohsen Fakhrizadeh by blowing up a Nissan van parked by the side of the road, but eventually had to shoot him.
Yet another widely circulated account claims that up to 12 people shot at the security team in the moments immediately after the explosion. The Ansar al-Mahdi Protection Unit, which is responsible for the safety of high-ranking officials, has not yet commented on the attack.
Israeli Minister Denies Knowledge of Killers
According to report in state-controlled media the funeral ceremony for Fakhrizadeh took place earlier today in Tehran. Iranian defense minister General Amir Hatami vowerd to continue Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's work "with more speed and more power," and promised that the Islamic Republic would retaliate over his killing.
This is the third incident inside Iran in recent months that Iranian officials have blamed on Israel. The first was the bombing of the Natanz nuclear facility in July, followed by the assassination of senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Muhammad al-Masri in November.
Speaking before the “revelations” were published by Press TV earlier today, Israel's intelligence minister Eli Cohen told 103 FM Radio that he did not know who was responsible for the attack. Asked about the potential for reprisal from Iran, he said: "We have regional intelligence supremacy, and on this matter we are prepared, we are increasing vigilance, in the places where that is required."