Bomb blast blamed on Israel and US kills Iran nuclear scientist

Furore in Tehran after co-ordinated bomb attacks by motorcycle assassins

Iran has accused Israel and the US of orchestrating bomb blasts yesterday morning in Tehran that killed a prominent nuclear scientist and injured a colleague.

Assailants on motorbikes stuck magnetic explosives to the cars of two Iranian scientists as they drove to work. Dr Majid Shahriari, a prominent nuclear expert, was killed in one of the attacks, and his wife injured. In a second car Dr Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani and his wife escaped with injuries. The surviving scientist is on a UN list of individuals under sanction for suspected links to secret nuclear activities.

The Iranian regime immediately pointed an accusing finger at foreign enemies for the attacks. A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that, "undoubtedly, the Zionist regime and Western governments are involved in the assassination. When the time will come for holding them to account, their file will be very thick."

Israel, which has a policy of neither denying nor confirming such reports, declined to comment.

The death of Dr Shahriari, an academic at Shahid Beheshti University, is a heavy loss to Iran's nuclear research, analysts said. State news agencies said he was involved in developing the country's new generation of reactors. It remains unclear if he worked on Iran's uranium enrichment programme, which the West believes is a cover to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran's nuclear chief, Dr Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Dr Shahriari was "in charge of one of the country's great projects" at Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, but did not elaborate, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.

Dr Abbasi-Davani, who works at the same university as his murdered colleague, is said to be an expert in lasers and one of the country's top specialists on nuclear isotopes. He is also understood to have close connections to the country's Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Within hours of the attacks, Iranian officials vented their fury, accusing the West of waging a covert war on its nuclear programme, which Tehran has maintained is for civilian use.

"Don't play with fire," Mr Salehi warned his country's foes. "The patience of the Iranian nation has limits. If it runs out of patience, bad consequences will await enemies."

The Interior Minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, directly accused Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, and the CIA of planning the attacks, saying that they have "constantly tried to sabotage our technological progress".

Israel has been one of the loudest critics of Iran's nuclear programme, repeatedly warning Washington that the military option must remain on the table in case sanctions do not work. Senior Israeli officials have repeatedly said that the window of opportunity for a military strike is fast closing.

But Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli analyst of Iranian origin, cautioned that the killings might have been engineered by those close to the Iranian regime, as some reports have linked Dr Shahriari to Iran's "green" opposition movement. Since last year, the Iranian government has launched a heavy crackdown on dissenters. "It's possible that ... the regime wanted to get rid of them in a way that could be blamed on foreign elements," said Mr Javedanfar. "Iran has become a very unstable place since last year's elections."

Professor Massoud Ali Mohammadi, another nuclear scientist, was killed in a similar attack last January. As in this case, Iran accused Israel, although an opposition website later claimed that that the scientist supported the opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi in last summer's disputed elections.

Dr Shahriari's killing brings the tally of murdered scientists to at least three. A fourth, Dr Ardeshir Hosseinpour, died from mysterious gas poisoning three years ago.

Israel is also suspected by some of involvement in developing a cyber worm that is believed to have attacked Iran's industrial-nuclear complex. Mr Ahmadinejad admitted for the first time yesterday that malware had affected "several" uranium enrichment centrifuges, creating problems on a "limited basis". "Our specialists stopped that and they [the attackers] will not be able to do it again," he added.

The attacks on the scientists come just hours after Wikileaks released thousands of secret US cables revealing that Saudi Arabia had "repeatedly" urged Washington to take military action to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. Israel said yesterday that the cables vindicated its concerns over the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear programme.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Special Needs Support Worker

£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Sewing Technician

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence