Iran has said the country's first Covid-19 test kit was produced by slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami hailed the physicist, who was assassinated on Friday in a town near Tehran, was a pioneer scientific movement in the country.

"The organization under the management of Martyr Fakhrizadeh was among the first centers to produce the COVID-19 test kits," Hatami said.

Fakhrizadeh, who Iran says was the victim of a plot hatched by Israel's Mossad, worked as the head of the Defense Ministry's Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND).

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Saudi-Israel Secret Pact

Global media reported that Fakhrizadeh was one of the corner stones of Iran's clandestine nuclear program and that he was in the crosshairs of Israel. The assassination of Fakhrizadeh came a week after the global nuclear watchdog said Iran is making further strides in its nuclear program. Reports said Iran had started stockpiling low-enriched uranium and was enriching to a purity above the level permitted under the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with the world powers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had reportedly held secret discussions last week, triggering theories that two of Iran's biggest rivals were plotting moves against Tehran.

'Great Strides' in Vaccine Research

However, Tehran took efforts to divert attention from Fakhrizadeh's links with its nuclear program. Instead the leaders highlighted his role as a scientist and researcher. Hatami also said the slain expert had also led efforts to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. He said Fakhrizadeh made "great strides in the field of developing COVID-19 vaccine, the news of which, God willing, will be presented to our people."

He also said Fakhrizadeh's team had also conducted the first phase of clinical human trials of a coronavirus vaccine, according to a report in PressTV.

According to Iranian media reports, the attackers had opened fire on the scientist travelling in the car in Damavand county. Meanwhile, Iran's Fars news agency said the attack was followed by a car explosion and quoted witnesses as saying that 'three to four possible terrorists were killed.

With Iran's top leaders vowing to avenge the slain nuclear scientist, war clouds loomed over the Persian Gulf. CNN said the United States was moving battleships close to the Iranian shore, signaling unprecedented escalation in the Persian Gulf security situation following the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadhe on Friday.