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Iran claims remote-controlled machine gun used to assassinate top nuke scientist

Iraelie Defense Forces (IDF) Catlanit Samson Remote Controlled Weapon Station. (MathKnight and Zachi Evenor/Wikimedia Commons)
November 30, 2020

On Sunday, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that a remote-controlled machine gun was used in the Friday ambush that killed Iran’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Fars News reported it obtained information about the attack, including the finding that a Nissan car in which Fakhrizadeh was ambushed had a remote-controlled machine gun in it, which was used to fire on Fakhrizadeh’s car and other vehicles in his security detail. According to Fars News, Fakhrizadeh was riding in a bulletproof vehicle, but exited the vehicle after the first shots were fired and was killed by subsequent gunfire. The Iranian Fars News report’s claims could not be independently verified.

In remarks reported by the Iranian Tasnim News Agency, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also said electronic equipment was used to control the attack.

“Unfortunately, the operation was a very complicated one. It took place with the employment of electronic equipment. No person (assassin) was present at the scene,” Shamkhani said, in remarks reported by Tasnim News Agency.

Another Iranian news site, the Al-Alam News Network also reported claims the weapons used in the attack were controlled via a satellite connection.

Iran has alleged U.S. and Israeli involvement in the attack, though Tasnim News Agency Shamkhani also claimed the involvement of an Iranian exile group known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, also known as the Munafeqin.

Shamkhani said, It has become clear to us who has masterminded this and what its background is. The Munafeqin (Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization terrorists) have been involved for sure, and the criminal element in this job is definitely the Zionist regime and Mossad.”

Iran frequently refers to Israel as the Zionist regime and the Mossad is an Israeli intelligence service.

Fars News also reported a source’s claim that investigators in Iran recovered the remains of an Israeli weapon from the ambush site. The source claimed the weapon recovered from the attack site “bears the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.”

The latest claim the ambush killing of Fakhrizadeh was carried out by remote attackers comes in contrast to earlier reports claiming Fakhrizadeh’s security team fought with attackers present during the ambush and killed as many as four of them during the ambush.

In a comment reported by the Associated Press, Jeremy Binnie, the Mideast editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly said, Could you set up a weapon with a camera which then has a feed that uses an open satellite communications line back to the controller? I can’t see why that’s not possible.”

The Associated Press reported Israel does have remote-controlled gun turrets and has used them along the border of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, but that such weapons typically require a hard-line connection to cut down on the delay in commands being relayed to the weapons system. The Associated Press also reported that while such a remote-controlled weapon is technically feasible, it would require someone on the ground to set up the weapon.

Israeli journalist Amachai Stein tweeted, “Fakhrizadeh thought that it was his car that had actually collided with something. From the moment he left, he was shot at by an automatic machine gun that was on top of a nearby Nissan vehicle. After he was hit, the Nissan vehicle with the machine gun on it exploded.

Stein added, “The operation lasted about 3 minutes, and no human factor was present at the scene of the assassination. An investigation into the assassination of the nuclear scientist reveals that the owner of the vehicle on which the machine-gun was installed left Iran on October 29.”