Episode 161 – Assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

The topic for this week’s episode is an outline of the assassination of Iranian Senior Nuclear Scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, dubbed the father of the Iranian nuclear program, held the rank of brigadier general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). According to intelligence reports, he was responsible for Iran’s development of nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.

On Friday, November 27th, 2020, at 2:15 PM, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was ambushed while traveling in an armored Nissan Teana on a rural road in Absard.

In the past, we’ve conducted many forensic analyses on attacks similar to the attack on Fakhrizadeh.  But analyzing this ambush was a challenge. The open-source pictures and explanations and reported information on how the attack occurred did not match the data gathered from Google Map images.

Reports on how, where, and who conducted the ambush varied from completely automated facial recognition satellite remote control machine gun mounted in a pickup truck with no attacker’s present – to 12 attackers and a pick-up truck, motorcycle, two snipers plus 40 to 50 support personnel.

We know for sure that the Fakhrizadeh was in the middle vehicle of a three-car convoy. He was sitting in the back seat of the armored Nissan Teana sedan. The Nissan Teana is a vehicle used by officials of the Iranian defense ministry. His three-vehicle convoy consisted of a lead security car, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle, and a follow vehicle.

The convoy left the highway and turned onto Absard Rd., a two-lane road leading into the town of Absard.

What is also known is that his security team was warned that there could be an attempt on his life; other reports mentioned that they were also notified that they were under surveillance.

Many conflicting accounts came out of Iran concerning the assassination, but there are common elements to all of them when reviewing the reports.

The Ambush

As they drove on to Absard Rd., the lead security car went ahead to secure the road at the city entrance. One other report indicates that they were attacked as they entered the Rotary: forensic evidence, including the Google Maps pictures, suggests that does not seem to be likely.

The principal’s and the follow vehicles continued down Absard Rd. About a kilometer (3300 feet) down the road, they approached a parked Nissan Delivery truck — a vehicle commonly used by tradesmen in Iran. Looking at a variety of photos and matching them to Google Maps indicate that the attack took place about a kilometer or 3300 feet from highway 79.

This is where it all gets murky as to what exactly happened.

At a distance of about 300 meters (984 feet) from the truck, the principal’s vehicle’s windshield was hit by gunfire. Reports indicate that the driver initially did not know they were shot at; he thought something had landed on his car and broken the windshield; he immediately pulled off the road. In the process of pulling off the road, the Principal’s vehicle is now 150 Meters or 492 feet from the back of the pickup truck.

Forensic evidence gathered in examining the photos indicates that this was the location of the ambush.

Fakhrizadeh is now in the stopped vehicle with his wife in the seat beside him and the driver behind the wheel. At this point in the timeline, the two bodyguards in the follow car run over to the principal’s vehicle.

One of the bodyguards from the follow car realizes that the cause of the damage to the Principal’s windshield was by gunfire. But within seconds of the bodyguards arrival at the Principal’s vehicle, the truck exploded.

These are some of the theories of what happens next.

All the press photos show the Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle with three bullet holes, tightly grouped, directed right at the driver. According to one report, Fakhrizadeh was mortally wounded before the blue truck exploded — theoretically from shots fired from the remote-controlled machine gun located on the back of the parked truck. If that scenario Is correct, then the principal’s vehicle may not have been armored. Also, the rounds would have to go through the driver and hit the principal.  There are pictures available that show the back-side window shot out; the photos indicate that the side window (not the door window) was not armored; whether the rest of the car was armored, as we mentioned, is in doubt.

Another version outlines that the attackers moved in on the vehicle, taking out the bodyguards, although there are reports that one bodyguard survived. Using this theory, the attackers blew out the back-panel window of the car’s left rear door, through which they were able to insert a 9mm pistol and killed the driver. This scenario theorizes that shots from inside the vehicle caused the damage to the windshield. Reports are that they discovered a 9mm bullet casing on the back seat, which tends to back up this scenario.


As a short note – thinking back 30 to 40 years ago, it took weeks, if not longer, to get data and pictures concerning an attack. We now have pictures within hours. Open-source information supplies us with an overwhelming amount of information concerning how the attack occurred – including drawings and exact location.

Usually, when we use forensic data from pictures, Google Maps, and other sources, we can create a timeline of what happened seconds before the incident.  We can match those pictures with Google Maps and Google Street View. – this particular attack, there are too many ambiguities in the reports coming out of Iran to accomplish that.

Here’s what we know for sure.  The security team was told that Fakhrizadeh was a target. We can’t say this with certainty, but if history rings true, the security team more than likely felt that since they were driving in three armored cars and had a sufficient number of bodyguards that they could handle anything that would come their way.

History has shown that simply isn’t true; again, the security team knew or had information that their principal was a target – the road they drove down was only one of two routes that they could have entered the city of Absard.

Reports are that he drove down that road every weekend, basically that he would be at this place at this time in this vehicle.

Many reports confirmed that the security team was concerned about the Rotary at the city entrance, which is 2 Kilometers or 1.2 miles from the highway, not taking into account that an attack could happen before the Rotary.

Knowing that there was a threat, the lead vehicle drove by the parked truck alongside the road without stopping and asking questions or telling the remaining convoy to pull over and stay put until they could figure out what was going on.  Also, there were reports that the attackers were parked in a pickup truck on the other side of the road.

That said, there are some hardcore truisms in this attack and the many others that we have looked at. This assassination was another incident where surveillance detection was your best weapon against the outcome. ISDA cannot stress the following; if you are involved and moving the principal regularly from point A to point B, one of the essential training programs to attend, if not the most important, is surveillance detection.  The training program must involve detecting surveillance, moving a principal by vehicle from point A to point B.

This assassination points out what we have been saying for decades. Surveillance Detection is not just another method: “In many scenarios, surveillance detection is not only the best protection, but it may also be the only protection.”

There are a series of excellent articles insights concerning this event; we have listed them along with pictures in the notes section that you can find on

Going for the Kill


Mohsen Fakhrizadeh – Wikipedia


Assassination Scenario Fakhrizadeh


“Surveillance must be conducted up to the time of the attack” – Carlos Marighella


Surveillance Detection and Security Driving


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