Bomb kills Iranian nuclear scientist
TEHRAN — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran accused Israel and the West of being behind a pair of daring bomb attacks that killed one nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran yesterday.
He also acknowledged that a computer worm had affected centrifuges in Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials vowed the nuclear program would not be hampered by what they described as a campaign to sabotage it — whether by assassination or by computer virus.
The United States and its allies say Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies. Iran says it wants only to generate power at nuclear reactors.
In the bomb attacks, assailants on motorcycles attached magnetized bombs to the cars of the two nuclear scientists as they drove to work. They detonated seconds later, killing one scientist, wounding another, and wounding each of their wives, who were in the cars, Tehran’s police chief said.
At least two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years, one of them in an attack similar to yesterday’s.
The wounded scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, is on a list of people suspected of having links to secret nuclear activities in a 2007 UN resolution that imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on those listed. The resolution describes him as a Defense Ministry scientist who works closely with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, believed to head secret nuclear projects. Iranian news media said he was a member of the Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s strongest military force.
Majid Shahriar, the scientist killed in the bombing, was involved in a major project with Iran’s nuclear agency, said the agency’s chief, vice president Ali Akbar Salehi, though he did not give specifics.
“Undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination,’’ Ahmadinejad told a news conference.
Salehi, a former teacher of the slain scientist, wept as he went on state TV. Iran’s enemies “are mistaken if think they can shake us,’’ he said.
Asked about Iran’s accusations, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel does not comment on such matters.
US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “We decry acts of terrorism, wherever they occur. And beyond that, we do not have any information on what happened.’’
Tehran’s police chief, Hossein Sajednia, said no one had been arrested yesterday and no one had claimed responsibility.
Iran had previously acknowledged discovering the Stuxnet worm, which is designed to destroy centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control, at its nuclear facilities. But Iranian officials, including Salehi, said it was neutralized before it could cause any damage.
Yesterday, though, Ahmadinejad told reporters: “They managed to create problems for a limited number of our centrifuges through the software . . . installed on electronic parts. But this [virus] was discovered and the problem was resolved.’’
He said Iranian experts had learned from the attack and “this became an experience that stops the path for [sabotage] forever.’’
Early in November, UN inspectors found Iran’s enrichment program temporarily shut down, according to a recent report. The length and cause of the shutdown were not known, but speculation fell on Stuxnet.
The latest attacks came a day after the release of internal US State Department memos by the website WikiLeaks, including several that detail Arab fears over Iran’s nuclear program. In some memos, US diplomats say Arab leaders advocated a US-led attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Ahmadinejad dismissed the leaks as “mischief’’ aimed at damaging Tehran’s ties with the Arab world.