Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused Israel of assassinating the country’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
The Iranian scientist was killed on November 27 by unidentified assailants in the outskirts of the capital, Tehran. The assailants blew up a car ahead of him and then opened fire at his vehicle.
On November 28, Rouhani said the assassination sprang from the inability of the “enemies of Iran” to hold back its scientific progress and development.
“Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance were stained with the blood of the mercenary usurper Zionist regime,” Rouhani said, according to the Anadolu Agency.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh, who was described as the “Qasem Soleimani of Iran’s nuclear program,” led to anger among the country’s top officials.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called in a statement for action against those responsible for the assassination of Fakhrizadeh. Khamenei said Iranian officials should “seriously place two crucial matters on their agendas.”
“First, investigating this crime and firmly prosecuting its perpetrators and its commanders,” he said. “Second, continuing the martyr’s scientific and technological efforts in all the sectors where he was active.”
The assassination was condemned by Iran’s regional allies. Naim Qassem, second-in-command of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, stressed that Tehran has the right to respond to the assassination.
The U.S, who was accused of carrying out the assassination along with Israel, is taking unusual military measures in the Middle East.
Less than 24 hours after the assassination of Fakhrizadeh, the U.S. Navy announced the return of aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to the Persian Gulf.
Commander Rebecca Rebarich, spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said there were “no specific threats” that triggered the return of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. She added that the redeployment was related to U.S. draw-down in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This action ensures we have sufficient capability available to respond to any threat and to deter any adversary from acting against our troops during the force reduction,” the spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.
The timing of the redeployment of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, which was apparently pre-scheduled, may be directly linked to the assassination of Fakhrizadeh.
Iran has reportedly placed its missile units on high-alert. It remains unclear if Tehran will take military action or against which side. A military response may lead to a serious confrontation in the region, especially if Israel was the target.
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