Iran claims cyber warfare expert not assassinated, as Israel remains cagey over involvement

Mojtaba Ahmadi is the latest in a string of Iranian commanders and scientists to meet an untimely end

Jerusalem

Israel has said it was “not necessarily” involved in the death of the head of Iranian cyber warfare, Mojtaba Ahmadi. He was killed north of Tehran on Saturday or early this week, becoming the latest in a string of Iranian nuclear and war effort experts to meet an untimely end.

“The fact that a cyber commander or this or that scientist was wiped out or killed in this or that assassination does not necessarily mean that Israel’s hand is in the matter,” Science and Technology Minister – and former head of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet – Yaacov Peri told Israel Radio. “At the same time, it’s definitely the type of operation that can slow the danger in the Iranian issue both in the nuclear realm and in the realm of cyber.”

But, he added, the death of the head of the Cyber Warfare Command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would not necessarily have a lasting impact since a replacement would be found.

Details of the death, including its precise timing, remain shrouded in mystery. The Iranian Albarz website reported that Mr Ahmadi was found dead in a wooded area near Karaj, northwest of Tehran and quoted a witness saying he had been shot. He was last seen on Saturday.

A statement on the website of the Revolutionary Guard denied the death was an assassination, terming it instead a “horrific incident” that was being investigated.

Working in nuclear development or advanced warfare systems has proven a dangerous job in Iran. Five Iranian nuclear scientists as well as the country’s ballistic missile programme director have been assassinated since 2007, with Iran blaming Israel. Israel has in the past declined comment on whether it is involved, yet sometimes has voiced satisfaction with the results.

Israel believes Iran, its arch-foe and main rival for primacy in the region, is working on a nuclear bomb that could threaten its existence or at least increase Iran’s power dramatically.

The election of the more moderate Iranian President, Hasan Rouhani, has done nothing to alleviate Israel’s worries and the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu pointedly warned the international community during an address at the UN on Tuesday that Iran is still working towards a nuclear bomb and that Israel would stop it even if it has to act alone.

At least four of the slain Iranian scientists were ambushed with a magnetic bomb affixed to their vehicle as they commuted to work, according to press reports. In January 2012, Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, an expert on uranium enrichment, was killed by a bomb affixed by a motorcyclist. Scientist Darush Rezaei-Nejad was killed by shots fired from a motorcycle a year earlier. The country’s top physicist, Majid Shahriari, was killed by a magnetised bomb in October 2010.

Last year US officials said Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was providing an Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, with logistical and financial support to assassinate the scientists.

Israeli news reports indicated that Israel will not soften the tone on Iran following Mr Netanyahu’s speech. Even as the United States begins to conduct talks with Iran over its nuclear programme, Israel will continue to say that Iran is trying to dupe the international community.

But not all Israeli commentators are comfortable with the strident approach Mr Netanyahu has adopted, including calling for heightening sanctions.

“If Rouhani does show concrete compromise, I believe imposing more sanctions could be detrimental,” Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Israeli, who is one of the country’s leading specialists on Iran, wrote on his website. “There should be a reciprocal system whereupon for each concrete compromise, Iran is rewarded, not punished.”

Mr Javedanfar took exception to Mr Netanyahu’s terming during his UN speech of Mr Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” saying  that “in Iranian culture comparing someone to an animal in any way is deeply offensive.”

Mr Javedanfar concludes: “Israel has a very legitimate case against the Iranian regime’s nuclear programme – it is just unfortunate Netanyahu has to present it.”

Killer rivalry? The experts who have lost their lives

Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan Nuclear scientist in Tehran – killed, January 2012.

Majid Shahriari Senior Iranian nuclear physicist – killed by a bomb attached to his car, November 2010; Iran blamed the West.

Masoud Alimohammodi Particle physicist – killed by a bomb strapped to a motorcycle, January 2010.

Shahram Amiri Nuclear scientist – disappeared, October 2009; Iran blames the US.

Ali Reza Asghari General of the Islamic Revolutionary Republican Guards Corps and Cabinet Minister – kidnapped, February 2007; widely reported to have been taken by Mossad.

Hamid Hajizadeh Teacher and poet – stabbed to death alongside his son, September 1998.

Hussein Baraxandeh Engineer and close aide of the Iranian revolutionary, Dr Ali Shariati – disappeared and found dead the next day, January 1995; initial cause of death was claimed to be heart problems but was later confirmed as suffocation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...