Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iranian physics professor murdered

"He did it...no, Israel did...no, the American CIA...maybe the Iranians themselves". Such a complex web of politics.

"Bomb Blast Kills Physics Professor in Tehran"


Alan Cowell

January 13th, 2010

The New York Times

PARIS — A remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorcycle killed an Iranian physics professor outside his home in northern Tehran on Tuesday, state media reported, blaming the United States and Israel for the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. One state broadcaster, IRIB, quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that “in the initial investigation, signs of the triangle of wickedness by the Zionist regime, America and their hired agents are visible in the terrorist act” against the scientist, Massoud AliMohammadi.

There was some dispute about his field of scientific specialization.

The English-language Press TV said he taught neutron physics at Tehran University, although it was not clear whether he was part of Iran’s contentious nuclear enrichment program.

The broadcaster called the professor a “staunch supporter of the Islamic Revolution” of 1979 that overthrew the Shah and initiated three decades of theocratic rule.

But two Iranian academics, who spoke in return for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said in telephone interviews that he was not a nuclear physicist and had specialized in particle and theoretical physics. The Web site of Tehran University lists him as a professor of elementary particle physics.

A spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency, Ali Shirzadian, told The Associated Press that Dr. AliMohammadi had no link with the agency responsible for Iran’s nuclear program.

Since flawed presidential elections last June, Iran has been gripped by its deepest political crisis since 1979, pitting supporters of the victorious President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against opponents who call his regime illegitimate. News reports said Dr. AliMohammadi’s name had been on a list of 240 university teachers published on reformist Web sites before the election and identified as supporters of the main opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi. But there was no formal confirmation from Tehran of his more recent political position.

After brutal crackdowns, the authorities late last year broadened efforts to stifle dissent to encompass the educational system, hinting that dissident professors would be purged. A number of hard-line clerics have called for the university humanities curriculums to be further Islamized. But it was not immediately known whether Tuesday’s killing was related to that dispute.

Analysts said the Iranian authorities seemed to have been quick to label Dr. AliMohammadi a loyalist, possibly as a precursor to renewed, harsh action against their opponents.

The reported bombing came just days after pro-government demonstrators shot at the armored car of the Iran’s most outspoken opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, last Thursday, his Saham News Web site reported.

That attack appeared to reflect growing frustration that the crackdown in recent months had failed to stop the opposition from lashing out at the country’s leaders and staging intermittent protests that have brought tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets.

Press TV reported on Tuesday that Dr. AliMohammadi, 50, was killed close to his home in the Qeytariyeh neighborhood of northern Tehran when a bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded near his car.

“Iran’s police and security bodies are investigating the terrorist case to identify those behind it,” Press TV reported and quoted Tehran’s prosecutor general, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, as saying no suspect had so far been arrested.

Iranian television showed cleaners sweeping up debris and hosing down the street after the blast shattered windows and smeared the sidewalk with blood and detritus. The video also showed what seemed to be a zippered body bag on a stretcher.

The Web site of Iran’s state television declared the bombing a “terrorist act by counterrevolutionaries and elements of arrogance,” a reference to the United States. Security forces are investigating, The A.P. quoted the report as saying.

The United States and western allies have been pressing Iran to halt its nuclear enrichment program, which Tehran insists is solely for civilian purposes to produce electricity. But the West fears Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon that would threaten Israel and upset the regional power balance.

Last year, an Iranian nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia; Iran accused the United States of helping to kidnap him.

After Tuesday’s explosion, the government’s supporters and opponents traded accusations and claims that the scientist had supported their camp.

The royalist Takavaran Tondar group denied involvement in the blast. On its Web site, the group accused government agents of being behind the explosion. It said an announcement earlier on another Web site that seemed to be linked to it and claimed responsibility for the explosion had long been hacked by the authorities. The explosion came at a time of growing tension between Iran and its Western adversaries.

Speaking Monday at the start of a nine-day trip across the Pacific, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States and its allies were discussing financial sanctions that would appear to be aimed at the Revolutionary Guards and other political players in the country if diplomacy fails to overcome the growing tensions with Iran.

“It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran,” she said. “They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions.”

But she added, “All that is yet to be decided upon.”

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