Intelligence minister: Many clues about perpetrators found
Iran laid to rest a nuclear scientist in a funeral befitting a distinguished martyr Monday, vowing to redouble his work after an assassination blamed on Israel.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh succumbed to his wounds on Friday after assailants targeted his car and engaged in a gunfight with his bodyguards outside the capital Tehran.
Monday’s service for Fakhrizadeh took place at an outdoor portion of Iran’s Defense Ministry, with high-ranking officials including Defense Minister Amir Hatami, Intelligence Minister Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Hossein Salami, and chief of the IRGC’s Quds Force Esmaeil Qa’ani.
Hatami gave a speech after kissing Fakhrizadeh’s casket and putting his forehead against it. He said Fakhrizadeh’s killing would make Iranians “more united, more determined.”
"If our enemies had not committed this heinous crime and spilled our dear martyr's blood, he might have remained unknown," Hatami said according to AFP.
"But today, he who was only a hero for his students and colleagues, is introduced to the whole world," he added, saying Fakhrizadeh will be an inspiration for "all who embark on the path to fight."
"The enemies should know, that this is their first defeat."
Hatami also criticized countries that hadn’t condemned Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, warning: “This will catch up with you someday,” AP wrote.
Fakhrizadeh was one of Hatami’s deputies and headed the Defense Ministry's Research and Innovation Organization.
In his speech, the minister said the government has decided to double the organization’s budget to continue Fakhrizadeh's work “vigorously with more speed and more power.”
The scientist's body was laid to rest at Emamzadeh Saleh, a popular Shia shrine in northern Tehran where two other slain nuclear scientists were buried in 2010 and 2011.
The funeral was not open to the public in order to maintain health protocols over the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Defense Ministry said.
As part of the procession before the funeral, Fakhrizadeh's body was taken on Saturday and Sunday to holy Shia shrines in the northeastern city of Mashhad and Qom in central Iran, as well as the shrine of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini in Tehran.
The assassination has led to demands for a strong response from the Iranian leadership and calls by some to avoid entering potential negotiations with the United States, even as the hawkish presidency of Donald Trump draws to a close.
Iran's Parliament on Sunday demanded a halt to international inspections of nuclear sites in the country.
Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and began reimposing and reinforcing tough sanctions, but US President-elect Joe Biden has promised a return to diplomacy.
President Hassan Rouhani has emphasized that the country will seek its revenge for the assassination in "due time" and not be rushed into a "trap."
Iran has responded to the US withdrawal from the 2015 deal by gradually scaling back most of its key nuclear commitments under the agreement.
Assassination carried out ‘remotely’
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in a new type of "complex operation" by Israel.
The "operation was very complex that was carried out remotely with electronic devices and no one was present at the scene," Shamkhani told national TV at the funeral, AFP reported.
The terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) were "certainly" involved, along with "the Zionist regime and the Mossad", Shamkhani said, referring to the Israel and its spy agency.
"The enemy used a completely new, professional and specialized method and reached its goal," he added.
The New York Times said an American official and two other intelligence officials had confirmed Israel was behind the attack, without giving further details.
Iran's foes had singled out Fakhrizadeh as a target "for 20 years", and an attack was anticipated to take place at some point, Shamkhani said.
"Security forces had predicted the possibility of an attack on him, even predicting the possible location of the incident," he said.
But given the "frequency of (such) news in these 20 years, the required seriousness was sadly not applied" this time, he added.
‘Many clues’ obtained
Iran's Intelligence Ministry said it had obtained "new leads" on the identity of the perpetrators and that the information "will be publicized very soon."
Intelligence Minister Alavi said Monday “many clues” have been obtained and intelligence forces are still investigating the terror acts “from all dimensions.”
An unnamed source told Press TV that the weapon used in Friday’s attack was made in Israel.
“The weapons collected from the site of the terrorist act bear the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry,” the source told the English-language broadcaster on Monday.
International reactions kept pouring on Monday in condemnation of the assassination.
The United Arab Emirates on Sunday condemned the killing as a "heinous crime", urging all parties to exercise restraint.
"The UAE condemns assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and (calls) on all parties to exercise self-restraint to avoid dragging region into new levels of instability and threat to peace," the Foreign Ministry tweeted.
The strongly-worded UAE condemnation comes weeks after the Arab nation normalized ties with Israel.
Omani Foreign Minister Badr al-Busaidi expressed his condolences to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif by phone, Oman state television said.
According to the statement, Busaidi expressed his condemnation of the act which went “against humanitarian and international laws”.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein expressed condolences in a phone call with Zarif, Reuters reported.
Jordan also condemned on Sunday the assassination and called for collective efforts to avoid an escalation in tensions in the Middle East region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Monday said such “criminal acts” would weaken regional stability and security.