Iran General NewsIran blames West after outspoken nuclear scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi...

Iran blames West after outspoken nuclear scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi blown up

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ImageThe Times: Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, an Iranian nuclear scientist, left his home in the affluent Qeytarieh district of northern Tehran at 7.30am yesterday to go to work at Tehran University. He never made it. The Times

Martin Fletcher

ImageMassoud Ali-Mohammadi, an Iranian nuclear scientist, left his home in the affluent Qeytarieh district of northern Tehran at 7.30am yesterday to go to work at Tehran University. He never made it.

The professor, 50, who was married with children, had scarcely strode out of the house before he was killed by the blast from a remote-controlled bomb strapped to a parked motorbike. Passers-by were injured, a car was set ablaze and the windows in nearby shops and apartments were shattered, leaving the road covered with blood and debris.

The bombing — a rare occurrence in Tehran — triggered feverish speculation in a capital engulfed in a seven-month conflict between the regime and the opposition and at a time when the West is stepping up efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear programme.

The regime blamed Dr Ali-Mohammadi’s death on opposition “mercenaries” financed by Western and Israeli intelligence agencies bent on derailing that programme.

Opposition sources claimed that the regime killed Dr Ali-Mohammadi because he was an outspoken supporter of the so-called Green Movement, and to inspire fear at the university, an opposition stronghold. By blaming foreign enemies it could also justify a further crackdown on dissent. The regime moved swiftly to broadcast its version of events, with state television saying that Dr AliMohammadi was a “committed and revolutionary university professor martyred in a terrorist operation by counter-revolutionary agents affiliated with global arrogance [America]”.

The Foreign Ministry said that preliminary investigations had uncovered “signs of evil by the Zionist regime, America and their mercenaries in Iran”.

Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, declared: “Given the fact that Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist, the CIA and Mossad most likely have a hand in his assassination.”

Mark Toner, the US State Department spokesman, said: “Any charges of US involvement are absurd.”

The weakness in the regime’s case is that while Dr Ali-Mohammadi would almost certainly have had some involvment in Iran’s nuclear programme there is no evidence that he was a particularly important figure. The key scientists are all protected.

He reportedly received the first doctorate awarded in nuclear physics in Iran in 1992. He is thought to have worked for the Republican Guard until a few years ago, but the International Atomic Energy Agency and several Western officials who monitor its key players had never heard of him and his many published articles are mostly about theoretical and particle physics.

There is, however, ample evidence that Dr Ali-Mohammadi had become an outspoken opposition activist. He was one of 420 academics who signed a statement expressing “unambiguous support” for Mir Hossein Mousavi a few days before June’s presidential election. Sources said that after Mr Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the disputed ballot, Dr Ali-Mohammadi encouraged his students to join street demonstrations. One recalled him saying: “We have to stand up to this lot. Don’t be afraid of a bullet. It only hurts at the beginning.”

Others said that in recent months he had become increasingly outspoken, even criticising regime officials openly during his classes.

According to one rumour, he had made plans to leave for Sweden. To lose a nuclear scientist would have embarrassed the regime, especially if he took secrets with him, but the rumour could not be confirmed.

A statement claiming responsibility for the bomb appeared briefly on the website of an obscure monarchist group that wants to destroy the Islamic Republic, but the group later denied responsibility and it appeared that the statement was posted by hackers.

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