Iran’s armed forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri warned of “severe revenge” for those behind the assassination of a top nuclear scientist outside Tehran on Friday.
“Terrorist groups and the leaders and the perpetrators of this cowardly attempt should know that severe revenge awaits them,” he said in a tweet reported by state news agency IRNA.
Bagheri called the death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh “a bitter and heavy blow” and added “we assure (Iranians) that we will not rest until we have chased and punished” those involved.
Fakhrizadeh was “seriously wounded” when assailants targeted his car before being engaged in a gunfight with his security team, Iran’s defence ministry said in a statement.
It added that Fakhrizadeh, who headed the ministry’s research and innovation organisation, was later “martyred” after medics failed to revive him.
Fakhrizadeh, once described by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, had been travelling in a car near Absard city in Tehran province’s eastern Damavand county.
A state television report on the assassination described him as one “of our country’s nuclear scientists” and said that Israel “had an old and deep enmity towards him”.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said there were “serious indications of an Israeli role” in the scientist’s assassination.
“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.
“This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” he added.
He also called on the international community to “end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.”
Fakhrizadeh’s assassination comes less than two months before Joe Biden is to take office as US president.
Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under incumbent US President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions.