Belgian FN 7.62mm Remotely Controlled Rifle Used in Iranian Scientist Assassination: NYT

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  • 08:24 AM, September 20, 2021
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Belgian FN 7.62mm Remotely Controlled Rifle Used in Iranian Scientist Assassination: NYT
FN’s deFNder remote weapon station

A 7.62mm MAG light machine gun mounted on a remote weapon station made by the Belgian firm FN Herstal was used in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27, 2020 in Absard near Tehran the New york Times reported Saturday.

The weapon was controlled by an assassin of the Israeli intelligence ageny, Mossad, from 1000 kms away who remotely fired at the scientist who was driving the car with his wife seated besides him. One bullet shot through the windscreen struck him in the shoulder. Fakhrizadeh got out of the car ostensibly exposing himself to the assassin in order to protect his wife. The remote-controlled rifle fired three more rounds injuring him fatally.

Giving details of the operation sourced from Israeli intelligence officials, the report said “It was the debut test of a high-tech, computerized sharpshooter kitted out with artificial intelligence and multiple-camera eyes, operated via satellite and capable of firing 600 rounds a minute.”

The remotely controlled weapon shot at only the scientist and avoided hurting his wife who was seated just inches next to him, that would make such a weapon the future choice in targeted assassinations.

Israel’s Mossad chose a special model of a Belgian-made FN MAG machine gun attached to an advanced robotic apparatus, the report said attributing the information to an Israeli intelligence officials.

The “robotic apparatus” could be FN’s deFNder remote weapon station (RWS) which is designed to accommodate the FN MAG machine gun together with its ammunition magazine. According to FN Herstel’s information, “The infantry model (FN MAG machine gun) can be mounted on FN Herstal's deFNder remote weapon stations without any modification.”

Belgian FN 7.62mm Remotely Controlled Rifle Used in Iranian Scientist Assassination: NYT
Fakhrizadeh's car after his assassination

The murder weapon was concealed inside a blue Nissan Zamyad pickup truck parked on the side of the road connecting Absard to the main highway leading out of Tehran. The truck was covered in tarpaulins and construction material; It had cameras installed all-round to give the assassin a 360 degree view of the approaching vehicles and the surroundings. The video feed was beamed live to the command center via a satellite link.

Artificial Intelligence

The Mossad team used artificial intelligence (AI) to overcome the technical challenge of the delay in acquiring video images of Fakhrizadeh’s car, sending it to the assassin’s screen and signaling back to the sniper weapon to adjust its aim. The delay, calculated at 1.6 seconds, was large enough for any RWS to miss its shot. However, in this case the Israeli-developed AI made micro adjustments to keep the car in the MAG rifle’s cross-hairs even as it was moving.

Weapon assembled in Iran

The machine gun, the RWS and related equipment was disassembled into its smallest possible parts and smuggled into the country then reassembled in Iran, the report said

The truck was packed with explosives so it could be blown up after the kill to destroy evidence.

Security cameras disabled

To positively identify the target, the Mossad team stationed a car resting on a jack, at a junction where vehicles heading for Absard had to make a U-turn, some three quarters of a mile from the kill zone. That vehicle contained another camera, Israeli intelligence sources told NYT reporters.

Iranian investigators later found that security cameras along the route had been disabled.

Following the kill, the Zamyad pickup then blew up but failed to destroy the sniper weapon which was thrown up into the air and landed almost intact in the hands of Iranian investigators, the NYT and several Iranian news outlet reported.

Belgian FN 7.62mm Remotely Controlled Rifle Used in Iranian Scientist Assassination: NYT
The assassination spot from different angles

Complete failure of Iranian intelligence and Fakhrizadeh’s security

While Iranian intelligence had reportedly warned Fakhrizadeh of the possible assassination, events of the day indicate that his security failed to respond to glaring red flags.

No drone surveillance was conducted on the route before and during Fakhrizadeh’s fatal last drive.

That the security cameras on the main highway leading out of Tehran were disabled went unnoticed.

Had the route which Fakhrizadeh took been sanitized, as is the standard practice for VVIP travel all over the world, the two abandoned pick-ups would have been spotted.

The lead security car moved on ahead to check on Fakhrizadeh’s house leaving the scientist’s car completely exposed to the assassin’s bullets.

Tehran’s security apparatus failed to detect the smuggling of the murder weapon in disassembled form over a period of time and the presence of Israeli agents to assemble and place it the truck. 

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