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Iran says top nuclear scientist 'assassinated' in shootout
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Iran says top nuclear scientist 'assassinated' in shootout

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Iran’s foreign minister is alleging the killing of a scientist linked to the country’s disbanded military nuclear program has “serious indications” of an Israeli role.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the statement Friday on Twitter. Israel has declined to comment, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself has named the scientist slain outside of Tehran.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote.

An Iranian scientist that Israel alleged led the Islamic Republic's military nuclear program until its disbanding in the early 2000s was "assassinated" Friday by gunmen using explosives and machine gun fire, state television said.

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: "Remember that name." Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.

State TV Friday cited sources confirming the death. It said it would offer more information shortly.

The semiofficial Fars news agency, believed to be close to the country's Revolutionary Guard, said the attack happened in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran. It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh was in, the agency said.

Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh's bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.

State television on its website later published a photograph of security forces blocking off the road. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh.

Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Guard, appeared to acknowledge the attack on Fakhrizadeh.

"Assassinating nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation to prevent us from reaching modern science," Salami tweeted.

Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader and a presidential candidate in Iran's 2021 election, issued a warning on Twitter.

"In the last days of their gambling ally's political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war," Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to U.S. President Donald Trump. "We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!"

The area around Absard is filled with vacation villas for the Iranian elite with a view of Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the country. Roads on Friday, part of the Iranian weekend, were emptier than normal due to a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, offering his attackers a chance to strike with fewer people around.

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