A prominent Iranian nuclear scientist was killed by a bomb in Tehran this morning, triggering a furious controversy over who was responsible.
The regime blamed the death of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi on opposition “mercenaries” financed by Western and Israeli intelligence agencies seeking to derail Iran’s nuclear programme.
The state-controlled media called Dr Ali-Mohammadi a staunch supporter of the Islamic Republic, but opposition websites claimed he may have been killed because he was a convert to the so-called Green movement.
An extreme fringe group called the Monarchical Society claimed responsibility on its website, but there was no obvious reason why it would have targeted Dr Ali-Mohammadi and it was impossible to say whether the claim was authentic.It is conceivable that the regime had Dr Ali-Mohammadi killed, to discredit the opposition, to prevent him leaking nuclear secrets or as a warning to other nuclear scientists.
Dr Ali-Mohammadi, 50, died when a remote-controlled bomb exploded outside his home in the smart Qeytarieh district of northern Tehran, according to Iran’s state media. Some reports said the bomb was attached to a motorbike, others that it was concealed in a rubbish bin.
Within hours the Iranian Foreign Ministry claimed that preliminary investigations had uncovered “signs of evil by the triangle of the Zionist regime, America and their mercenaries in Iran in this terrorist incident”.
Officials linked Dr Ali-Mohammadi’s death and the disappearance of Shahram Amiri, another Iranian nuclear scientist, while on a pilgrimage to Mecca last June. The regime accused the United States of kidnapping him.
“Such terrorist acts and the physical elimination of the country’s nuclear scientists will certainly not stop the scientific and technological process but will speed it up,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“Given the fact that Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist, the CIA and Mossad most likely have a hand in it,” Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, said.
State television said that Dr Ali-Mohammadi was a “committed and revolutionary university professor martyred in a terrorist operation by counter-revolutionary agents affiliated with global arrogance [America]”.
But it was not immediately clear whether Dr Ali-Mohammadi was an important player in Iran’s nuclear programme.
Mark Fitzpatrick, chief proliferation analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and other Western officials who monitor Iran’s nuclear programme did not recognise his name. He was not one of more than a dozen nuclear scientists honoured for their work by President Ahmadinejad a few years ago.
Dr Ali-Mohammadi taught physics at Tehran University and boasted a long list of publications, which suggests his involvement in the nuclear programme could have been intermittent at best. Tehran University is also regarded as an opposition stronghold and opposition websites said he was a known supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader.
“While reviewing the list of the university professors who supported Mousavi in the elections, it turns out that Prof Massoud Ali-Mohammadi ... was amongst them,” said the Kalameh site. Another, Ayande News, said that Dr Ali-Mohammadi had been publicly identified as a Mousavi supporter.
Ali Moqari, head of the science faculty at the University of Tehran, told the Mehr news agency that Dr Ali-Mohammadi “was a prominent international figure, but had not been involved in any political activities".
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