Iran says 'satellite-controlled' gun used to kill nuclear scientist

The assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last month was carried out remotely with artificial intelligence and a machine gun equipped with a “satellite-controlled smart system”, Iranian news agencies quoted a senior Iranian commander as saying.

Ali Fadavi, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, told Iranian news agencies that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was driving when a weapon opened fire on his car on a highway near Tehran. The weapon “zoomed in on Fakhrizadeh” using an “advanced camera”, Fadavi said. “No terrorists were present on the ground.”

Mr Fadavi’s account is the most explicit yet of claims first made last week that the attack was conducted remotely. The claims have not been verified and have been treated with a degree of scepticism in the west.

Iran has blamed Israel for the assassination – a claim Israel has neither denied nor confirmed.

France, Germany and the UK (known as the E3) warned Iran that it was limiting the space for diplomacy by threatening to commit further breaches of the nuclear deal after Fakhrizadeh’s killing.

Last week the Iranian parliament instructed the government to end UN inspections of its nuclear sites by February, but the Iranian foreign ministry said it had not been consulted about the resolution, adding it would not become law unless endorsed by the president, Hassan Rouhani.

Mr Fadavi said the gun used to kill Fakhrizadeh had been placed on a pickup truck and controlled by a satellite, and had fired 13 shots. “During the operation artificial intelligence and face recognition were used,” Mr Fadavi said. “His wife, sitting 25cm away from him in the same car, was not injured.”

Mr Fadavi’s account differs markedly from early reports of Fakhrizadeh’s death, when witnesses told state television that a truck had exploded before a group of gunmen opened fire on his car.

Fakhrizadeh, identified by Israel as a prime player in what it says is a continuing Iranian quest for a nuclear weapon, was the fifth Iranian nuclear scientist killed in targeted attacks since 2010 inside Iran. Tehran has long denied any ambition to develop nuclear weapons capability.

The European powers warned on Monday that steps seen as limiting UN inspections would be very worrying and make the chances of a diplomatic settlement harder.

A power struggle is under way in Tehran, in which hardliners are demanding Iran reduce its commitment to the nuclear deal in response to the attack. Iranian reformists, by contrast, are warning that further Iranian breaches of the nuclear deal will only play into the hands of the Israelis and Donald Trump and will damage the chances of the incoming US administration led by Joe Biden rejoining the nuclear deal and lifting US sanctions on Iran. – Guardian

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