Iran has claimed that a satellite-controlled machine gun ‘equipped with artificial intelligence’ was used in the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, in the latest account of his death to emerge from the Islamic republic.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed by a high-precision machine gun which fired 13 times but avoided hitting the scientist’s wife who was sitting next to him, according to Revolutionary Guard rear-admiral Ali Fadavi.
The weapon was being ‘controlled online’ via a satellite and used an ‘advanced camera and artificial intelligence’ to hit the target, he told the Mehr news agency.
Fakhrizadeh was killed on a highway outside Tehran on November 27, despite having a security detail of 11 guards, in an attack which the regime has openly blamed on Israel.
Mourners including Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi look at the coffin of slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran following his assassination on November 27
Various accounts of Fakhrizadeh’s death have emerged since the attack, with the defence ministry initially saying he was caught in a firefight with his bodyguards.
Commander Hossein Dehghan, a former defence minister, told state TV that Fakhrizadeh had been killed because of ‘infiltration into Iran’s security structure’.
But semi-official media linked to the Guards has published more elaborate accounts of an unmanned, high-tech operation involving a remote-controlled machine gun and carried out ‘without any assassin at the scene’.
Rear-admiral Fadavi said that Fakhrizadeh’s head of security took four bullets ‘as he threw himself’ on the scientist and that there were ‘no terrorists at the scene’.
Fars news agency earlier claimed that ‘a remote controlled automatic machine gun’ had killed the scientist, without citing any sources.
Iranian authorities have blamed arch-foe Israel and the exiled opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) for the assassination.
State-run Press TV had previously claimed that weapons ‘made in Israel’ were found at the scene.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (left) was described by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) as ‘the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist’
Another Iranian security official said that the assassins ‘obviously operated based on detailed intelligence about martyr Fakhrizadeh’s movements’.
‘It is clearly a security weakness and many questions should be answered,’ said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
‘We should know whether there are spies among security people and locate the leak. This is essential for us.’
According to Iran’s defence minister, Amir Hatami, Fakhrizadeh was one of his deputies and headed the ministry’s Defence and Research and Innovation Organization, focusing on the field of ‘nuclear defence’.
While Tehran has always denied seeking nuclear arms, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had identified Fakhrizadeh in 2018 as a prime player in Iran’s alleged nuclear quest.
Fakhrizadeh was killed in broad daylight in an attack on his car (which is pictured in the aftermath of the assassination on Friday)
Netanyahu claimed that year that Israel had smuggled a trove of of paper and digital files on Iran’s secret nuclear weapons programme out of the Islamic republic.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it was behind the operation to kill Fakhrizadeh.
On Sunday, an influential Saudi prince accused the Israeli authorities of ‘demolishing homes as they wish, and they assassinate whomever they want.’
The comments Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief said to be close to the country’s top leadership, also voiced strong support for the Palestinian clause.
It also comes despite hopes in some quarters of a Saudi-Israeli rapprochement following the Jewish state’s peace deals with Bahrain and the UAE earlier this year.
Last month, reports in Israel claimed that Netanyahu had met Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman for a secret summit. Saudi Arabia denied this.