TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A senior Iranian security official on Monday accused Israel of using electronic devices to assassinate a scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the 2000s.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, made the remarks at the funeral of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, where Iran’s defense minister vowed to continue the man’s work “with more speed and more force.”
Israel, a longtime suspect in the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade, has repeatedly refused to comment on the attack.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad program, which Israel and the West have accused of military action in view of the possibility of developing a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the “structured program” ended in 2003. U.S. intelligence agencies agreed with the assessment in a 2007 report.
Israel has insisted that Iran still maintains ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, turn its attention to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and research other technologies. Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The story of Fakhrizadeh’s murder, which took place on Friday, was drastically changed by Shamkhani’s remarks. Officials initially said a truck exploded and then gunmen opened fire on the scientist, killing him and a bodyguard. State TV also interviewed a man on the night of the attack, who described the gunman watching the open fire.
State TV’s English-language TV channel reported early Monday that a weapon found at the scene of the attack was “bore the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.” State TV’s Arabic-language channel, Al-Alam, claimed that the weapons used were “controlled by satellite”, a claim made by the Semifoffial Fars News Agency on Sunday.
None of the outlets immediately provided evidence to support their claims, which also gives authorities a way to explain why no one was arrested at the scene.
“Unfortunately, the operation was very complex and was carried out using electronic devices,” Shamkhani told state TV. “No one was present on the site.”
Satellite control of weapons is nothing new. Armed, long-range drones, for example, rely on satellite connections to be controlled by their remote pilots. Remote-control gun tarts also exist, but usually see their operator connected to a hard line to reduce the delay in relaying commands. Israel uses such rigid-wire systems on the border of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
At the time it was technically possible, it was not immediately clear if such a system had been used before, said Jeremy Binny, mediast editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly.
“Can you set up a weapon with a camera that then has a feed that the controller uses an open satellite communications line?” Said Binny. “I can’t see why that’s not possible.”
The question also raised whether the truck that exploded during the attack later exploded which would attempt to destroy a satellite-controlled machine gun hidden inside the vehicle. Iranian officials did not immediately acknowledge it. He will need anyone on the ground to arrange the weapon.
Shamkhani blamed the Iranian deportation group, Mujahideen-e-Khalaq, for “playing a role” without elaborating. MEK, as the deportation group is known, is suspected of helping Israeli action in Iran in the past. MEK spokesman Shaheen Gobadi dismissed Shamkhani’s remarks as “outrage, racism and lies” over the group’s earlier exposure of Iran’s nuclear program.
Monday’s service for Fahrizadeh took place at an outdoor part of Iran’s defense ministry in Tehran, with Revolutionary Guards chief General Hussein Salami, the guard’s Kuds Force leader General Ismail Ghani, civil nuclear chief Ali Akbar Sahi and intelligence minister. . They sat apart and wore masks because of the coronavirus epidemic as the reciters recited parts of the Koran and religious texts melodiously.
Defense Minister General Amir Hatami delivered the speech after kissing Fakhrizadeh’s casket and bowing his head in front of him. He said Fakhrizadeh’s assassination would make Iranians “more organized, more determined.”
“To continue your journey, we will continue with more speed and more power,” Hatmi said in comments broadcast live on state television.
Hatami also criticized countries that did not condemn Fakhrizadeh’s assassination and warned: “This will one day meet with you.”
Overnight, the United Arab Emirates, which has just reached a normalization deal with Israel, issued a statement condemning the “declared assassination.” The UAE, based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, warned that the killings “could escalate further conflict in the region.”
Last year, the UAE found itself in the midst of a growing series between Iran and the United States, although despite long-standing doubts about Iran’s nuclear program, the emirate has said it wants to escalate the crisis. The UAE has just started air service to Israel and Israeli passengers and is likely to have a vacation in the country on Hanukkah in the coming days.
There is an island state in the Gulf of Saudi Arabia called Bahrain from Saudi Arabia, which recently normalized relations with Israel, similarly condemned the assassination of Fakhrizadeh.
“Given the current situation in the region, the Bahraini empire calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid new levels of instability,” the Bahraini foreign ministry said.
Meanwhile, the director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Elon Ospiz, has called for maintaining a “high level of readiness and awareness of any irregular activity” around the mission and Jewish community centers.
Israeli Hebrew-language media have reported that the Foreign Ministry has ordered increased security at some Israeli diplomatic missions abroad following Fakhrizadeh’s assassination. The ministry declined to comment on diplomatic security matters.
Gambler reports from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Contributed by Ilan Ben Zion, Associated Press writer in Jerusalem.