Scientist killed by remote-controlled machine gun, says Iranian official

Published December 7, 2020
Members of Iranian forces carry the coffin of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran on Nov 30. — Reuters/File
Members of Iranian forces carry the coffin of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran on Nov 30. — Reuters/File

TEHRAN: A satellite-controlled machine gun with “artificial intelligence” was used in last week’s assassination of a top nuclear scientist in Iran, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards told media on Sunday.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was driving on a highway outside Tehran with a security detail on Nov 27, when the machine gun “zoomed in” on his face and fired 13 rounds, said rear admiral Ali Fadavi.

The machine gun was mounted on a Nissan pickup and “focused only on martyr Fakhrizadeh’s face in a way that his wife, despite being only 25 centimetres away, was not shot,” Mehr news agency quoted him as saying.

It was being “controlled online” via a satellite and used an “advanced camera and artificial intelligence” to make the target, he added.

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”.

Iranian authorities have blamed Israel and the exiled opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) for the assassination.

State-run Press TV had previously said “made in Israel” weapons were found at the scene.

Various accounts of the scientist’s death have emerged since the attack, with the defence ministry initially saying he was caught in a firefight with his bodyguards, while Fars news agency claimed “a remote-controlled automatic machine gun” killed him, without citing any sources.

According to Iran’s defence minister, Amir Hatami, Fakhrizadeh was with one of his deputies and headed the ministry’s Defence and Research and Innovation Organisation, focusing on the field of “nuclear defence”.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2020

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