Lebanon's Hezbollah: Response to nuclear scientist assassination up to Iran

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The deputy leader of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, Naim Qassem, said on Friday, the response to the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was in Iran's hands.

"We condemn this heinous attack and see that the response to this crime is in the hands of those concerned in Iran... It is a matter of honor and dignity, and we are not bothered by assassinations," Qassem said in an interview with Hezbollah's Al Manar TV.

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Fakhrizadeh, one of Iran’s most prominent nuclear scientists was assassinated on Friday in an attack on his car outside Tehran, the defense ministry said earlier on Friday.

He was "seriously wounded" when assailants targeted his car before being engaged in a gunfight with his security team, the ministry added. He later succumbed to his injuries and died in the hospital.

Qassem added that Fakhrizadeh was murdered by "those sponsored by America and Israel" and the assassination was "part of a war on Iran and the region."

Iran accuses Israel

Iranian officials vowed to avenge the slain scientist and pointed the finger of blame at Israel.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has claimed there were "serious indications of (an) Israeli role" in the assassination.

Meanwhile, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Hossein Salami said: “Severe revenge and punishment for the perpetrators of this crime is on the agenda,” according to Iranian media.

Israel “designed and directed” Fakhrizadeh’s killing, Salami alleged. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it was not commenting on the attack on the Iranian nuclear scientist.

Who is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh?

Fakhrizadeh, once described by Netanyahu as the father of Iran's nuclear weapons program, had been travelling in a car near Absard city in Tehran province's eastern Damavand county.

He has long been described by Western, Israeli and Iranian exile foes of Iran’s clerical rulers as a leader of a covert atomic bomb program halted in 2003. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponize nuclear energy.

He had the rare distinction of being the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear program and whether it was aimed at developing a nuclear bomb.

Fakhrizadeh was named in a 2007 UN resolution on Iran as a person involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities. An IAEA report the following year also referred to him briefly.

Iranian media rarely mention him. In 2007, the semi-official Mehr News Agency described him as a scientist working for the Defense Ministry and a former head of the Physics Research Centre, a body also mentioned in the IAEA’s report.

Some Iranian websites said he was a university professor.

But Western analysts acknowledged that little is publicly known about Fakhrizadeh, described by Albright’s think tank as a nuclear engineer who has overseen a number of projects related to weaponization research and development.

The IAEA had said in 2002-2003, Fakhrizadeh was the executive officer of the so-called AMAD Plan, which according to its information conducted studies related to uranium, high explosives and the revamping of a missile cone to accommodate a nuclear warhead.

“If Iran ever chose to weaponize (enrichment), Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,” a Western diplomat who is critical of Iran’s nuclear program had told Reuters.

- With Agencies

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