Who is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the 'father of the Iranian bomb' assassinated near Tehran?

James Rothwell
File image of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh - Friends of Israel Initiative 
File image of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh - Friends of Israel Initiative

"Remember that name," Israel's prime minister said of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a 2018 speech where he accused the scientist of leading Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme.

On Friday the same man, who was known as "the father of the Iranian bomb," died in a hospital near Tehran after his car was sprayed with bullets by unidentified assassins.

Mr Fakhrizadeh is said to have run Iran's "Amad" (Hope) nuclear project, which Israel and US intelligence officials say was developing a nuclear weapon in secret, a claim that the regime has denied.

Though the Amad project was shelved in 2003, Israeli and US officials say that the regime continues to work on a nuclear warhead, with Mr Fakhrizadeh acting as the mastermind until his death on Friday.  

He served as a brigadier in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the regime's elite military unit, according to Israeli media reports. He is believed to have been born in 1958 in the holy city of Qom and reportedly once served as a deputy defence minister.

The mysterious Iranian figure has been frequently compared to Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear scientist that helped America develop an Atomic bomb in the 1940s.

A handout photo made available by Iran state TV (IRIB) shows the damaged car of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh after it was attacked - AFP
A handout photo made available by Iran state TV (IRIB) shows the damaged car of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh after it was attacked - AFP

During a presentation in 2018, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Mr Fakhrizadeh was the leader of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, SPND, that continued the work of the Amad project.

"You will not be surprised to hear that SPND is led by the same person who led Project Amad, Dr Fakhrizadeh. And also, not coincidentally, many of SPND's key personnel worked under Fakhrizadeh on Project Amad," Mr Netanayahu said during the televised address.

It was not the first time that Mr Fakhrizadeh was connected with Iranian efforts to build a nuclear warhead under the guise of a civilian nuclear research programme.  A major report by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog in 2011 said he was a central figure in suspected Iranian work to develop technology and skills needed for atomic bombs.

Iran acknowledged Mr Fakhrizadeh's existence shortly after, but insisted that he was an army officer who was not involved in the nuclear programme.

Mr Netanyahu's slideshow also featured a rare photograph of the shadowy nuclear scientist, which showed a bespectacled, middle aged man with a stubbled chin.