Iran’s renowned nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated near the capital Tehran.
In a statement Iran’s defence ministry said: “Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry’s research and innovation organisation.
“After a clash between the terrorists and his bodyguards, Mr Fakhrizadeh was severely injured and rushed to hospital.
“Unfortunately, the medical team’s efforts to save him were unsuccessful and minutes ago he passed away.”
Iranian media reports said the attackers opened fire on the scientist in his car.
Fars news agency earlier reported there was a car explosion in Absard town, with witnesses reporting that “three to four individuals, who are said to have been terrorists, were killed”.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has condemned the killing “as an act of state terror”.
Fakhrizadeh is viewed as being behind a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
News of the killing comes amid fresh concern about the increased amount of enriched uranium that Iran is producing. Enriched uranium is a vital component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated and Iran has accused Israel of complicity in the killings.
Fakhrizadeh’s name was specifically mentioned in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation about Iran’s nuclear programme in May 2018.
According to secret documents obtained by Israel in 2018, he led a programme to create nuclear weapons.
“Remember that name,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he identified Fakhrizedeh as the head scientist in the programme.