Iranian state media has issued for the first time the stunning details of last Friday's assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Importantly, Iranian state media is claiming that a machine gun recovered from the site was made in Israel. "The remains of the weapon used in the Friday assassination of senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh show that it was made in Israel, an informed source has told Press TV," according to the state-run English language news site.
The killing was done "entirely remotely" with no assassins on the ground and no apparent drone activity, according to Iranian officials. But how?
"The source made the revelation on Monday, saying the weapon collected from the site of the terrorist act bears the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry," PressTV continued.
Tehran officials said they will soon publicize all available evidence showing who was behind the hit, which occurred in a small city east of the capital and included a hail of gunfire and detonation of a vehicle which took out the scientist's convoy and body guards. Officials have further vowed "hard revenge" for the killing which they had in the hours after blamed on Israel.
Initially international reports strongly suggested a multiple-man hit team forced Fakhrizadeh's vehicle to stop before opening fire. However, Iranian state media just dropped details suggesting sophisticated remote-controlled machine guns were used.
On Monday Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Islamic Republic's Supreme National Security Council, confirmed that it is Iranian investigators' belief that Israel used "electronic devices" to take out Fakhrizadeh, according to the Associated Press.
1 \ Amazing new details of the Fakhrizadeh assassination emerge in the Iranian press: IRGC affiliated Fars news reports the assassination was done using an automatic machine gun operated with a remote control and not with gunmen who were on the groundhttps://t.co/CLSaCuHp2J— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) November 29, 2020
The following is a translation and paraphrase of key sections of a new Iranian state-run Fars news report by Axios correspondent Barak Ravid:
Amazing new details of the Fakhrizadeh assassination emerge in the Iranian press: IRGC affiliated Fars news reports the assassination was done using an automatic machine gun operated with a remote control and not with gunmen who were on the ground.
According to the report Fakhrizadeh and his wife were on their way to spend the weekend at their house in a Tehran suburb. There were three security cars with them and at a certain point the leading car left the motorcade to do a preliminary security check of the house.
Right after the car at the front of the motorcade left shots were fired on Fakhrizadeh’s car and it stopped. Fakhrizadeh stepped out of the car thinking his car hit an object on the road or there was a problem with the engine.
At that point shots were fired again from a Nisan pickup truck which stopped 150 meters from Fakhrizadeh’s car. The shots were fired from an automatic machine gun which was mounted on the pickup truck and operated by remote control.
Fakhrizadeh was hit by three bullets – one hit him in the spine. Seconds later the Nisan pickup truck exploded in what looks like a self destruct mechanism. According to Fars news Iranian security forces identified the owner of the pickup truck who left Iran on October 29th.
Fars reported the assassination operation lasted only three minutes and was all done by remote control with no gunmen on the ground.
If true, this would further point to a likely foreign intelligence operation, whether Israeli or with American help.
It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood movies. The 1997 film The Jackal involves just such a scenario where an assassin seeks to kill a politician using just such a high-tech remote controlled automatic long-range gun.
Here are the official details of the targeted killing being circulated by top Iranian officials Monday, as summarized in the AP:
"Unfortunately, the operation was a very complicated operation and was carried out by using electronic devices," Shamkhani told state TV. "No individual was present at the site."
Satellite control of weapons is nothing new. Armed, long-range drones, for instance, rely on satellite connections to be controlled by their remote pilots. Remote-controlled gun turrets also exist, but typically see their operator connected by a hard line to cut down on the delay in commands being relayed. Israel uses such hard-wired systems along the border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
It may be the first time in known history that such a high level assassination was carried out entirely through on the ground stationary remote-controlled automatic weapon fire.
Mideast editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, Jeremy Binnie, mused, "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?"
Binnie answered his own rhetorical question with: "I can’t see why that’s not possible."