Body of killed Iranian nuclear scientist taken to Muslim shrine

The body of Iran’s assassinated top nuclear scientist has been taken to the first of several revered Shia Muslim shrines ahead of his funeral set to Monday, state media reported.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused arch-enemy Israel of acting as a US “mercenary” and killing Mohsen Fakhrizadeh when assailants opened fire on him and his bodyguards near Tehran on Friday.

As part of the funeral process, Fakhrizadeh’s body arrived in the northeastern city of Mashhad late on Saturday and was taken to Imam Reza’s shrine for prayers and to circle the tomb, the state news agency IRNA reported.

His remains will then be taken to Fatima Masumeh’s shrine in Qom, south of Tehran, and then to Imam Khomeini’s shrine in the capital, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The funeral itself will be held on Monday in the presence of high-ranking military commanders and his family, the ministry said on its website without specifying the location.

The killing of Fakhrizadeh – whom Israel has called the “father” of Iran’s nuclear program – has once again heightened tensions between the Islamic Republic and its enemies.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for the perpetrators to be punished and called for Fakhrizadeh’s “scientific and technical efforts” to continue.

The Iranian parliament held a closed session on Sunday with Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi to “investigate the assassination”, the ISNA news agency reported.

Spokesman Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf said all “decisions taken will be made public soon”.

The United States imposed sanctions on Fakhrizadeh in 2008 for “activities and transactions that contributed to the development of Iran’s nuclear program,” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once described him as the father of Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran promises revenge for killing nuclear scientists, points finger at Israel

Iran has repeatedly denied trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The New York Times said a US official and two other intelligence officials had confirmed that Israel was behind the attack without giving further details.

Israel has declined to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s death.

The assassination comes less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office after a tumultuous four years of hawkish foreign policy in the Middle East under President Donald Trump.

Rouhani has accused the assassination of “the evil hands of global arrogance, with the unsurprising Zionist regime as the mercenary”.

Iran usually uses the term “global arrogance” to refer to the United States.