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Iranian nuclear scientist shot with remote-controlled machine gun, news agency reports

TEHRAN, Iran: The Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated east of Tehran was shot by a remote-controlled machine gun operating out of another car, the semi-official Fars News Agency said.

With top Iranian officials blaming Israel, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and others have promised revenge for the Friday killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the country’s chief nuclear scientist.

There were conflicting accounts from Iranian news agencies about how the attack unfolded.

The Fars News report said Fakhrizadeh was travelling with his wife in a bulletproof car, alongside three security personnel vehicles, when he heard what sounded like bullets hitting a vehicle and he exited the car to determine what had happened.

When he got out, a remote-controlled machine gun opened fire from a Nissan stopped about 150 metres from Fakhrizadeh’s car, the agency said.

Fakhrizadeh was hit at least thrice. His bodyguard was also shot. Following the gunfire, the vehicle exploded and the attack lasted three minutes.

The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency also reported Fakhrizadeh’s car was hit by gunfire, followed by an explosion and more gunfire. ISNA cited Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami as its source.

“Based on reports received from members of his security detail, Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle was initially targeted by gunfire, after which a Nissan vehicle laden with explosives was set off in close proximity to them as gunfire, targeting their vehicle, was continuing,” Hatami was quoted as saying.

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, a state television outlet, said the explosion happened first, followed by gunfire from attackers.

Seyed Kamal Kharrazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, compared the assassination to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday. Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike earlier this year in Iraq.

“Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic of Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Fakhrizadeh,” Kharrazi was quoted as saying.

Related story: Iran blames Israel for killing top scientist

Fakhrizadeh was the head of the research center of new technology in the elite Revolutionary Guards and was a leading figure in Iran’s nuclear program.

Khameini wrote Saturday on a Twitter account that often carries his official statements, “Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed by the oppressive enemies. This rare scientific mind lost his life for his everlasting great scientific work. He lost his life for God and the supreme leader.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the international community “to end their shameful double standards” and “condemn this act of state terror.” He added that the attack showed “serious indications of Israeli role.”

Gen Hossein Dehghan, Khamenei’s military adviser, tweeted Saturday that “Zionists” are seeking to create “all-out war” and vowed to “descend like lightning” on Fakhrizadeh’s killers.