x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Iran accuses Israel and US of killing nuclear scientist

Iranian authorities say there were signs of involvement of Israel and the United States in the bomb blast that killed Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, an Iranian nuclear physicist.

TEHRAN // Iranian authorities said there were signs of involvement of Israel and the United States in the bomb blast that killed Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, an Iranian nuclear physicist, yesterday. The explosion, a rarity in Tehran, injured two other people. "Preliminary investigations have revealed signs of evil doings of a triangle of Israel, the US and their mercenaries in the terrorist accident," the foreign ministry's spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said hours after the blast.

"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," he said. "Considering that Massoud Ali Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist, the CIA and Mossad services and their agents are very likely to have been involved," Iran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabdi, told state-run television.

The US vigorously denied allegations of involvement in the attack. "Charges of US involvement are absurd," a state department spokesman, Mark Toner, said. Iran's Atomic Energy Agency spokesman, Ali Shirzadian, strongly rejected any rumours that Ali-Mohammadi had been in the employment of the agency, according to the semi-official Mehr news service. The 50-year-old professor of physics at Tehran University specialised in quantum physics and subatomic particles. He was killed at 7.58am in a blast caused by a remote-controlled bomb planted in a motorbike. The motorbike had been parked within a metre of the gate of the garage of his residential building in the Qeytarieh district of northern Tehran, according to Fakhreddin Jafarzadeh, deputy prosecutor of Tehran.

The explosion caused Ali-Mohammadi's car to explode and damaged another vehicle, the Iranian Students News Agency reported Safarali Baratlou, an official in the Tehran provincial governor's office, as saying. The two people injured in the blast were given treatment on the spot by paramedics, Abbas Zarenejad, a health ministry spokesman, told the semi-official Fars News Agency. The semi-official Borna news agency published photographs showing shattered windows in several nearby houses in the quiet residential neighbourhood and Mehr news agency said the explosion broke all the windows of houses and cars in a 700-metre radius.

Ali-Mohammadi's political affiliations, if any, are disputed. He had worked for the Revolutionary Guards from the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 until 2003, Fars quoted Mohammad Kazem Manzour, one of his students, as saying. The student also claimed his professor had been politically active and implied that he had been pro-government. Fars and other official media praised Ali-Mohammadi as a "committed revolutionary and a devotee of the supreme leader".

The opposition, however, claims he openly supported the reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, in the June presidential elections. "Pro-government media try to present Masoud Ali-Mohammadi as one of the supporters of the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - the information acquired by our reporter shows that like many academics he had been a supporter of the Green Movement," Jaras, an opposition website, wrote.

Ali-Mohammadi's name appears as a signatory to a statement signed by 420 pro-Mousavi professors published three days before the elections, according to Jaras, which ran a photo of the statement. Mr Mousavi's website, Kalemeh, also identified Ali-Mohammadi as a supporter. Within hours of the incident, Tondar, the website of a monarchist group based outside Iran that calls itself the Lightning Guerillas of the Iranian Monarchist Association (IMA), took responsibility for the killing. The statement called Ali-Mohammadi a "mercenary of the regime and one of the main persons involved in the development of Iran's nuclear programme in recent years who had served actively and effectively as a plainclothesman in suppression of recent unrest". Another website that also claims to be the mouthpiece of the IMA denied involvement by the association shortly after the first statement, according to Gooya News, a Europe-based Iranian news portal.

msinaiee@thenational.ae