Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was head of the research center of new technology in the elite Revolutionary Guards. He was considered one of the masterminds of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
Iranian state media said the killing appeared to be an assassination. Photographs from the scene showed a car with its windshield blown in, and the road strewn with glass and blood.
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif called the death “cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role.”
“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today,” he said in a tweet. “This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators Iran calls on int’l community—and especially EU—to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.”
US President Donald Trump retweeted prominent Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, who wrote: “Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi assassinated in Damavand, east of Tehran according to reports in Iran. He was head of Iran’s secret military program and wanted for many years by Mossad. His death is a major psychological and professional blow for Iran.”
The Trump administration said it is closely monitoring the apparent assassination. The death “would be a big deal,” a US official told CNN.
In April 2018, Netanyahu mentioned Fakhrizadeh by name when he unveiled a nuclear archive he said Mossad agents had taken from Tehran. He called him the head of a secret nuclear project called Project Amad. “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu told reporters.
Iran began to withdraw from its commitments to the 2015 landmark nuclear deal in 2019, a year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement and unleashed crippling sanctions on the country.
In the last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency documented several new breaches of the agreement. Earlier this week, Iran said it had begun injecting Uranium Hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at its Natanz facility.
This story has been updated to standardize the spelling of Fakhrizadeh’s name.