When Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated last November, the reports of the operation from the Iranian investigation agencies raised many eyebrows and were deemed ridiculous. But a recently published report in New York Times details the sequence of events leading up to that day and how Iranian reports were not just flights of fantasy.
Following Fakhrizadeh's death, the Iranian investigators gave a series of explanations ranging from a gunfight to an 'explosion' and even artificial intelligence. Almost a month later, Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), a group of analysts shared a model that confirmed that the multiple rounds at the scene were all fired from a single gun. Intriguingly, Fakhrizadeh's wife, who was traveling with him in the car and seated just inches away, was unharmed in the incident, further increasing the possibility that machine expertise was involved.
The NYT report confirmed this after speaking to intelligence officials in Iran as well as Israel and the United States, who carried out the attack. According to the report, Fakhrizadeh, who had been on Israel's hit list for many years, had evaded previous assassination attempts. This time around, backed by the high-ranking officers in the U.S., such as then-President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, Israeli's intelligence agency, Mossad, decided to use a robotic apparatus to remotely operate a machine gun.
Since the entire apparatus would together weigh more than a ton, it was disassembled and smuggled into Iran, piece by piece, where it was put together again on the bed of a Nissan Zamyad, a locally made pickup truck. In addition to the robot that would control the Belgian-made FN MAG, 7.62mm machine gun, capable of firing 600 rounds per minute, multiple cameras were also mounted to provide a detailed picture to the control room, which was located thousands of miles away at an undisclosed location, the report said.
To positively identify that it was Fakhrizadeh who was traveling in the car, a decoy car was deployed to force his convoy to slow down and take a U-turn. When the scientist was identified, the sniper, who was sitting miles away, took his shot and fired. A burst of bullets left the pickup truck after the AI system on the robotic apparatus took into account the car speeds of the convoy and the signal delays and corrected for them, the report said.
After the car swerved following the initial fire, the sniper readjusted the gun and fired once again at the car's windshield, targeting the scientist. Fakhrizadeh who is believed to have been hit on the shoulder at this point, took refuge behind an open front door of the car, where he was fired at again, three bullets hitting his spine, killing him. His wife was unhurt.
The entire sequence of events played out in less than a minute during which fifteen rounds were fired. The pickup truck, packed with explosives, blew up to erase any trace of what had transpired there, but most of the robotic equipment survived, the report said.
However, an Israeli outlet has reported that Iran has denied the New York Times report. The Jerusalem Post reported that an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson denied NYT's claims, further stating that Iranian intelligence had all the details of the incident, including "all people involved."