The New York Times reported on Saturday that Israel had kept Fakhrizadeh under surveillance “for at least 14 years,” and finally made a move on the scientist near his countryside residence in Absard, east of Tehran, last November.
To carry out the assassination, the regime used a special model of the Belgian-made FN machine gun that was attached to a robotic instrument and required no on-site operatives, according to the report.
The newspaper said the “killer robot” was the beta test of a weapon “kitted out with artificial intelligence and multiple-camera eyes, operated via satellite and capable of firing 600 rounds a minute.”
The robot was designed to fit in the bed of a pickup, which was mounted with cameras aimed in several directions and which contained explosives that allowed operators to destroy evidence after the operation.
The whole device weighed about a ton, as the report said, and was smuggled into Iran in small parts ahead of the operation and then reassembled near the location of the killing in Absard.
The Times said the Mossad team handled the whole operation from a command center outside the country after mounting the computerized machine gun on a blue Zamyad pickup truck and placing it on the way of Fakhrizadeh’s convoy.
“The assassin, a skilled sniper, took up his position, calibrated the gun sights, cocked the weapon and lightly touched the trigger,” the paper said. “He was nowhere near Absard, however. He was peering into a computer screen at an undisclosed location more than 1,000 miles away. The entire hit squad had already left Iran.”
The report stressed that Israel had been closely following Fakhrizadeh’s career and movements since 2007 and began making preparations for an assassination operation in late 2019 and early 2020, following a series of meetings between Israeli officials led by then-Mossad director Yossi Cohen and high-ranking United States officials, including then-US President Donald Trump, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the CIA director Gina Haspel.
“Mr. Fakhrizadeh had been at the top of Israel’s hit list since 2007, and the Mossad had never taken its eyes off him,” the paper said, pointing out that then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had mentioned the top Iranian nuclear scientist by name several times in news conferences.
The US daily said Israel had once tried to assassinate Fakhrizadeh in 2009 but the mission was “called off at the last moment” after the Iranian intelligence learned of the plot.
Fakhrizadeh, who headed the Iranian Defense Ministry’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, was assassinated on November 27, 2020.
Following the assassination, Iranian officials said that Israel had acted with US intelligence and carried out the targeted killing of the prominent nuclear scientist.
Tehran has vowed harsh revenge for the iconic scientist’s murder. Iranian lawmakers also issued a statement demanding that the country respond to the assassination of Fakhrizadeh by restricting the United Nations’ regulatory mandate regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
Fakhrizadeh’s assassination a ‘disgrace’ for perpetrators
In a news briefing on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reacted to the NYT’s report on the assassination of the top nuclear scientist, saying Iran’s intelligence and security agencies had thoroughly followed the matter and the details of the operation were quite clear to them.
“Certainly, the path [to prosecution] that should be taken by the intelligence and security forces has been done and will be done again,” Khatibzadeh told reporters.
“This is a legal commitment and a special commitment to pursue those who helped assassinate one of the honors of Iran and our great scientist in the peaceful nuclear field,” he added. “This is a disgrace for those who are arrogantly proud of knife stabbing and similar acts.”
Khatibzadeh stressed that Iran had followed the legal path, along with the intelligence and security paths, to ensure the assassins will not go unpunished.