Iran nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan killed by magnetic bomb in Tehran
Iran yesterday blamed the U.S. and Israel for the assassination of a university professor and scientist who played a key role in the country’s controversial nuclear weapons programme.
Two hitmen on a motorcycle were said to attached a magnetic bomb to the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan killing him and a passenger instantly as they sat in the Iranian-assembled Peugeot 405 in northern district of the capital Tehran.
A 32-year-old chemistry expert and director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, Roshan was said to have been involved in the development of Tehran’s atomic programme.
The assassination had strong similarities to other executions in recent years of scientists linked to the programme and underlined the belief that a major covert operation is underway against it.
Iran has accused Israel’s Mossad, the CIA and Britain’s spy agencies of engaging in an underground “terrorism” campaign against nuclear-related targets, including at least three killings since early 2010 and the release of a malicious computer virus that temporarily disrupted controls of some centrifuges – a key component in nuclear fuel production.
All three countries have denied the Iranian accusations.
Yesterday Tehran pointed the finger at the US and Israel as being behind the latest ‘terrorist’ attack but promised it would not be a setback to the expanding nuclear programme.
‘The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists, and the work of the Zionists (Israelis),’ Deputy Tehran Governor Safarali Baratloo was quoted as saying.
First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi added that Israeli agents were behind the attack, but cannot ‘prevent progress’ in what Iran claims are peaceful nuclear efforts.
Israeli officials have hinted about covert campaigns against Iran without directly admitting involvement.
On Tuesday, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a “critical year” for Iran – in part because of “things that happen to it unnaturally’.
Roshan, a graduate of the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, was deputy director of commercial affairs for the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and in charge of purchasing and supplying equipment for the facility. Natanz is Iran’s main enrichment site.
The U.S. and its allies are pressuring Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a key element of the nuclear programme that the West suspects is aimed at producing atomic weapons.
Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as nuclear fuel but at higher levels, it can be used as material for a nuclear warhead.
Iran denies it is trying to make nuclear weapons, saying its programme is for peaceful purposes only.
Since December, Iran has held or announced a series of war games that included threats to close the Gulf’s vital Strait of Hormuz – the passageway for about one-sixth of the world’s oil – in retaliation for stronger U.S.-led sanctions.
‘Assassinations, military threats and political pressures … The enemy insists on the tactic of creating fear to stop Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities,’ lawmaker Javad Jahangirzadeh said after yesterday’s blast.
‘Instead of actually fighting a conventional war, Western powers and their allies appear to be relying on covert war tactics to try to delay and degrade Iran’s nuclear advancement,’ said Theodore Karasik, a security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
He said the use of magnetic bombs bears the hallmarks of covert operations.
SPATE OF ASSASSINATIONS RELATING TO IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
Scientists involved with Iran’s nuclear programme have been the subject of UN sanctions in the past.
But four have been killed in the past two years and others have also been attacked or allegedly kidnapped – with Iran blaming the west.
June 2009: Shahram Amiri claimed to have been kidnapped while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and transferred to the U.S.
Said he was offered $50million to ‘spread lies’ about Iran’s nuclear work. Amiri worked at Iran’s Malek Ashtar University, but Tehran initially denied he was involved in nuclear programme. Returned to Iran in July 2010.
January 2010: Nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohammadi killed by remote-controlled bomb in Tehran. Lectured at Tehran University and linked to two men subjected to UN sanctions because of their work on suspected nuclear weapons development.
November 2010: Two car bomb blasts killed a nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran as Iran blames Israel or U.S. attack.
Majid Shahriyari killed and his wife injured. Shahriari was a member of nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University.
In the other blast, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani and his wife were both injured. Abbasi-Davani, head of physics at Imam Hossein University, has been personally subject to UN sanctions because of suspected involvement in nuclear weapons research.
July 2011: Physicist Darioush Rezai, 35, shot dead by gunmen in eastern Tehran.
University lecturer had a PhD in physics and had been linked to nuclear programme.
January 2012: Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, 32-year-old chemical engineering graduate, killed by a bomb placed on his car in Tehran.
Victim was a nuclear scientist who supervised a department at Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Iran blamed Israel and the U.S. for the attack.