A BOMBING attack on two Iranian nuclear experts, killing one, may have been a government hit designed to prevent the release of secrets, analysts claim.
As Iran openly blamed Israel and the US for the attack on Monday night (AEDT) on Majid Shahriari and Fereydoon Abbasi, the connection between the victims has raised fears that a hit squad is targeting Iranian nuclear experts.
The two scientists were attacked while they were on their way to work by men on motorcycles who had attached bombs to their cars in different parts of Tehran.
Shahriari was killed instantly. Three others, including the men’s wives and a driver, were also injured.
“There must be a lot of nuclear scientists in Iran getting very worried right now,” Ali Ansari, the director of the Iranian institute at the University of St Andrews, said.
Shahriari was the second nuclear scientist to be killed in Tehran this year. In January Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was killed by a bomb strapped to a motorcycle parked outside his house. Ali-Mohammadi shared professional links with the victims of the latest attack.
He and Shahriari worked on the Sesame Council, a bilateral particle accelerator project in Jordan. Their work would have introduced them to experts in their field from across the world, including Israel. Dr Abbasi and Ali-Mohammadi both taught at Imam Hussein University for the Revolutionary Guard.
After his murder it emerged that Ali-Mohammadi was a sympathiser with the pro-reform opposition movement and had been at demonstrations after the disputed presidential election last year. It was claimed he had planned to flee Iran and was killed by the government before he could escape.
Meir Javedanfar, an expert on Iran at the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company, said it was possible that a Western intelligence agency had attacked the scientists but it was just as feasible that the regime could have carried out the attacks.
“After the 2009 elections the brutal crackdown swelled the ranks of the democracy movement among the people and among officials, and that includes members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Council. They’ve had to purge hundreds from among their own ranks,” he said.
He added that if the men had covertly joined the reform movement, the regime could have attacked them to prevent them from leaking secrets and to send a message to other scientists.
“Iran already has the biggest brain drain in the world, according to the UN, and nuclear physicists getting blown up in their cars in Tehran is not going to help it,” Mr Javedanfar said.
Iran accused the Israeli government of carrying out the attacks.
The Iranian government immediately pointed the finger at Israel although investigators in Tehran said that the case was continuing.
“Western governments and the Zionist regime were involved in today’s assassinations in Iran,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.
Israeli officials have refused to comment on the allegations.