Reports from Iran suggest a team as large as 62 persons, including a ten-man assault team, two snipers, and 50 people handling logistical support were involved in the spectacular hit on Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran on Friday. The coordinated assault took place at a roundabout on a road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital.
The attack is a major blow to Iran’s security services and covert nuclear weapons program.
Iranian officials are blaming Israel on the brazen daylight raid, which if true, only underscores the tiny Jewish nation’s ability to operate such a large paramilitary team in the heart of Revolutionary Iran’s capital. But Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani pinned the blame for the killing on ‘the wicked hands of the global arrogance,’ a term usually used to refer to the United States, notes the Daily Mail.
Some analysts speculate that while the U.S. may have played a covert support role, Israel is likely the country most capable of mounting such an operation deep inside the Iranian terror state.
Impressive detail of the daring raid “dirty dozen” attackers has since leaked by Iranian journalist Mohamad Ahwaze. The Daily Mail described the assault:
The team had been watching Fakhrizadeh and knew that he was going to be driving from Tehran to Absard on Friday. The mountain retreat of 10,000 people is where many well-off Tehranis have second homes, and Fakhrizadeh, 59, had a villa there. The 12 assassins – described as being highly-trained and assisted by ‘security and intelligence services abroad’ – were deployed to Absard while the remaining 50 people in the 62-person strong group helped with logistical support. He did not specify whether they were in Iran, or abroad.
A Hyundai Santa Fe with four passengers, four motorcyles and two snipers were waiting for Fakhrizadeh at the scene of the ambush – along with a booby-trapped Nissan pickup.Half an hour before Fakhrizadeh’s convoy of three bulletproof cars arrived, the electricity was cut off to the area, Ahwaze reported. The team were in place when the first car passed the roundabout.
As the third car passed, the Nissan exploded, damaging electricity poles and transmitters, according to a state TV report from the area on Friday night. The force of the explosion from the bomb hurled debris at least 300 meters, state television claimed.
The second car, containing Fakhrizadeh, was then shot at by the 12 assassins, including two snipers. The gunmen with the hit squad opened fire on the cars, and an intense gunfight ensued, according to Sepah Cybery, a social media channel affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The Daily Mail reported that Ahwaze tweeted: ‘According to Iranian leaks, the leader of the assassination team took Fakhrizadeh out of his car and shot him and made sure he was killed.’ Ahwaze added that the hit squad then vanished, having sustained no losses to their team.
Another report by CNN noted that a remote-controlled machine gun in the “Nissan stopped about 150 meters (164 yards) from Fakhrizadeh’s car,” was used to fire on the armored vehicles, and then the Nissan was detonated to leave no evidence. The entire attack reportedly lasted about three minutes.
The assault team’s ability to mount such a large, well-orchestrated daylight raid just outside Tehran and escaping without casualties is a huge blow to Iran’s vaunted security services. It is also a massive blow to Iran’s ambitions to create nuclear weapons.
According to The Times of Israel, former Israeli military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, says Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is almost impossible to replace since he was so central to the Islamic Republic’s secret nuclear weapons. “The is no doubt that he was the core source of authority, knowledge and organization of this program,” said General Yadlin.