TEHRAN, Iran — A top Iranian security official on Monday accused Israel of using “electronic devices” to remotely kill a scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the 2000s.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, made the comment at the funeral for Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, where Iran’s defense minister separately vowed to continue the man’s work “with more speed and more power.”
Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade, has repeatedly declined to comment on the attack.
Fakhrizadeh headed Iran’s so-called AMAD program, which Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “structured program” ended in 2003. U.S. intelligence agencies concurred with that assessment in a 2007 report.
Israel insists Iran still maintains the ambition of developing nuclear weapons, pointing to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and research into other technologies. Iran long has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Shamkhani’s remarks drastically change the story of Fakhrizadeh’s killing, which took place Friday. Authorities initially said a truck exploded and then gunmen opened fire on the scientist, killing him and a bodyguard. State TV even interviewed a man the night of the attack who described seeing gunmen open fire.
State TV’s English-language broadcaster Press TV reported earlier Monday that a weapon recovered from the scene of the attack bore “the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.” State TV’s Arabic-language channel, Al-Alam, claimed the weapons used were “controlled by satellite,” a claim also made Sunday by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
None of the outlets immediately offered evidence supporting their claims, which also give authorities a way to explain why no one was reportedly arrested at the scene.
“Unfortunately, the operation was a very complicated operation and was carried out by using electronic devices,” Shamkhani told state TV. “No individual was present at the site.”
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Satellite control of weapons is nothing new. Armed, long-range drones, for instance, rely on satellite connections to be controlled by their remote pilots. Remote-controlled gun turrets also exist, but typically see their operator connected by a hard line to cut down on the delay in commands being relayed. Israel uses such hard-wired systems along the border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz has sent a cable to all Israeli diplomatic delegations around the globe urging diplomats to maintain “the highest level of readiness and awareness of any irregular activity” around missions and Jewish community centers.
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