An Iranian nuclear scientist has been reportedly murdered.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 59, who has long been suspected of devising a secret nuclear weapons program, is said to have been murdered near the capital, Tehran, on Friday.
He died of injuries in hospital after armed hitmen shot his car, Iranian media reported.
Fakhrizadeh has been described as Iran’s “nuclear” equivalent of General Qassem Soleimani, the country’s most powerful military commander.
Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq in January at the age of 62.
According to The Jerusalem Postthe commander of Iran’s revolutionary guards tweeted that Iran will avenge the murder of scientists, just as in the past.
Iranian armed forces said in a statement, “Unfortunately, the medical team has failed to revive (Fakhrizadeh), and a few minutes ago this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle.”
Iran’s Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, tweeted that it demonstrated “the depth of enemies’ hatred” towards the Islamic Republic.
Ali Hashem, a journalist from Al Jazeera English, tweeted: “According to some sources in Tehran, an Iranian nuclear scientist was murdered earlier today in Tehran.
“His name is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.”
He added, “Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is Iran’s nuclear Qassem Soleimani.”
His death has not yet been officially confirmed.
Fakhrizadeh and his bodyguard were reportedly both attacked by suicide bombers.
His body was left badly injured, Tehran-based journalist Reza Khaasteh tweeted.
It comes two days before the tenth anniversary of the murder of the well-known nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, who was killed in a car bomb.
The scientist is described in reports as “influential and highly placed.”
The Iranian Atomic Energy organization denied the murder, insisting that there were no incidents involving nuclear scientists.
But Iranian news outlets, including state broadcaster IRIB, said he was murdered.
In 2018, Fakhrizadeh was named during a presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as director of Iran’s nuclear project.
He would have added, “remember that name, Fakhrizadeh”, the Times of Israel reported.
Fakhrizadeh has previously been identified in UN Security Council documents as a “person involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities”.
In 2013, the Sunday Times reported that Fakhrizadeh was in charge of developing a nuclear warhead.