x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Iran accuses US and Israel of killing scientist in Tehran

The shooting of Dariush Rezaei-Nejad, who was reportedly associated with the Iranian defence ministry, was an ' American-Zionist terrorist act against one of the country's scientists', according to Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani.

TEHRAN // Iran yesterday accused the US and Israel of masterminding the assassination of a scientist in Tehran, Dariush Rezaei-Nejad, who was reportedly associated with the defence ministry.

The parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, told parliament yesterday: "The American-Zionist terrorist act against one of the country's scientists is yet another sign of the Americans' degree of animosity.

"America must think carefully about the consequences of such actions," he said, urging Iran's security forces to give a "stronger response to such evil moves."

Assailants riding a motorcycle shot dead Rezaei-Nejad, 35, in the capital on Saturday evening, according to the Iranian media, which originally reported he was a nuclear scientist working for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran.

Yesterday, however, the media stopped referring to him as a nuclear expert without giving an explanation, and described him as an "electronics master's student" at Tehran's Khajeh Nassir University.

The Fars news agency suggested that the media had made a mistake in reporting Rezaei-Nejad's speciality, and insisted that he had links with the defence ministry, without giving details.

But Iran's higher education deputy minister, Mohammad Mehdinejad Nouri, told the Mehr news agency that the victim "was not a member of the defence ministry," and suggested that he may have collaborated on a project the ministry had contracted to Khajeh Nassir University.

According to reports yesterday, Rezaei-Nejad was shot five times as he and his wife were waiting for their child in front of a kindergarten in Tehran.

The Tehran governor, Morteza Tamaddon, said at Rezaei-Nejad's funeral that the assassination "was without a doubt part of a project to discourage the Iranian nation from the path of [progress] it was pursuing," Mehr reported.

Mr Tamaddon linked the murder to those who killed two physicists working on Iran's nuclear programme, Masoud Ali Mohammadi and Majid Shahriari, last year.

A statement signed by 200 Iranian MPs condemned what they called "the cowardly actions of America and the Zionist regime against the Islamic republic," particularly the "murder of an Iranian scientist".

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have disappeared in recent years or been targeted in attacks that Iran has blamed on the United States and Israel, which suspect Tehran's atomic programme masks a nuclear weapons drive.

Iran denies the charges, insisting that its programme is entirely peaceful.