Israel informed American officials that it was behind the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing an intelligence official briefed on the communications.
According to the report, the Israelis told the Americans the killing was meant as a warning to Iran to halt the operations of a covert group within the IRGC’s Quds Force known as Unit 840, said the intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.
Unit 840 is tasked with abductions and assassinations of foreigners around the world, including Israeli civilians and officials, according to Israeli government, military and intelligence officials.
Israeli officials said Khodaei was the deputy commander of Unit 840, and was involved in planning cross-border plots against foreigners, including Israelis.
They said that he was in charge of the unit’s operations in the Middle East and countries neighboring Iran and had been involved over the past two years in attempted terrorist attacks against Israelis, Europeans and American civilians and government officials in Columbia, Kenya, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.
Iran has never acknowledged the existence of Unit 840.
On Sunday, two motorcyclists opened fire on Khodaei, who was parked in front of his home in Tehran.
Iranian media outlets reported that Khodaei was shot five times, and that his wife found him slumped over in his car.
The IRGC denounced the assassination as a "criminal terrorist act", and claimed that it had earlier on Sunday broken up a "network of thugs linked with the Zionist regime of Israel's intelligence service".
On Monday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi vowed that his country would avenge Khodaei’s death.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a trip to Oman, Raisi called the elimination of Khodaei an act of “terrorism”, adding that Iran would take “revenge” for Khodaei’s killing.
A European security official told the Iran International website on Monday that Khodaei was responsible for recruiting operatives for terror attacks against Israelis.
The source said Khodaei had been involved in a number of terrorist operations against Israelis in three continents including Asia, Europe, and Africa. These include an attack in the capital of India, New Delhi, on February 13, 2012, in which a diplomat’s wife was wounded.