The Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated near Tehran in November was killed by a one-tonne gun smuggled into Iran in pieces by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, according to a report by The Jewish Chronicle.
Citing intelligence sources, the British weekly said a team of more than 20 agents, including Israeli and Iranian nationals, carried out the ambush on scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh after eight months of surveillance.
The report, which was published on Wednesday on the website of the London-based newspaper, could not be immediately verified.
Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi said a member of Iran’s armed forces had been involved in the assassination, in an interview with state television on Monday.
Iranian media said Fakhrizadeh died in hospital on November 27 after armed attackers gunned him down in his car.
Shortly after his death, Iran pointed the finger at Israel, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif writing on Twitter of “serious indications of (an) Israeli role”.
Israel declined to comment at the time of the incident and on Wednesday night an Israeli government spokesman responded to the latest report by saying: “We never comment on such matters. There has been no change in our position.”
Fakhrizadeh, 59, had been described by Western and Israeli intelligence services for years as the leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States accuse Tehran of trying to restore.
Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.
According to The Jewish Chronicle’s report, Iran has “secretly assessed that it will take six years” before a replacement for Fakhrizadeh is “fully operational” and that his death had “extended the period of time it would take Iran to achieve a bomb from about three-and-a-half months to two years”.
Giving no further details of its sourcing, the world’s oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper said Mossad mounted the automated gun on a Nissan pick-up truck and “the bespoke weapon, operated remotely by agents on the ground as they observed the target, was so heavy because it included a bomb that destroyed the evidence after the killing”.
It said the attack was carried out “by Israel alone, without American involvement” but that US officials were given some form of notice beforehand.