Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tehran bomb blasts target nuclear scientists

An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed and another was slightly injured in separate bomb attacks as they drove to work in Tehran early Monday morning, November 29. Reports of a third explosion in the Mahalati district, northeast Tehran, were not confirmed by police sources, according to Mehr News.

In both incidents which took place between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, motorcyclists attached explosive devices to the victims' cars in morning traffic, before fleeing the scene.

Dr. Majid Shahriari, an elementary particle physicist and a member of the scientific board of Beheshti University, died in the blast that tore through his automobile near the intersection of Imam Ali and Artesh freeways. His wife and driver were wounded in the attack. Artesh Freeway runs south of the Mahalati district and it is unclear whether the sound of the conflagration that killed Shahriari was the source of confusion about a third attack in that district.

Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at Beheshti University and an expert in lasers, and his wife were lightly injured in the explosion that blew off the driver's door of their car in a square near Beheshti University in the Velenjak district. They dashed out of their Peugeot seconds before the device exploded, an eyewitness told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting corporation (IRIB). 'I was behind the damaged car. I saw the car stop and the driver jump out. He ran to his wife's side and got her out as well. They were two meters away from the automobile, when it blew up,' said the eyewitness to IRIB's Channel 1 news.

Abbas Davani and his wife were treated for their wounds at Taleghani Hospital, less than a mile from the attack, and released shortly before noon.

The public relations office of the greater Tehran police force declared that both spouses of the nuclear scientists also worked for Beheshti University, although it did not explain in what capacity. 

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General Hossein Sajedinia, commander of greater Tehran's police force, told reporters that no group or individual has taken responsibility for the terrorist acts and that no suspects were in custody. He denied previous reports that a Peugeot 206 had been involved in the attacks and had been pursued and shot at by the police in the vicinity of Beheshti University. However, he attributed the criminal acts to 'lackeys of the Zionist regime.' Media outlets have echoed such sentiments, adding Britain, the United States, and the MKO to the list of suspects.

'Both attacks were carried out by motorcyclists who, according to witnesses, attached the explosive devices to the cars with magnets. The bombs exploded a few seconds later,' he added.

'The protection of professors is the responsibility of the universities and the Defense Ministry,' police commander Sajednia said. 'They are the ones who must answer for this.'

Another nuclear scientist, Dr. Massoud Alimohammadi, was killed by a bomb attached to a motorcycle outside his Tehran home on January 12. The device was detonated by remote control as Alimohammadi left for work. The Islamic Republic blamed foreign governments and banned opposition groups for that attack, but Alimohammadi's involvement in the country's nuclear program is far from established and it has been revealed that he was a supporter of Green leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Alimohammadi knew both scientists who were targeted today. Shahriari was one of two Iranian advisers (Dr. Javad Rahighi was the other) on the Sesame Project, which stands for 'Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East,' an international scientific project under the auspices of UNESCO. Alimohammadi was one of the Islamic Republic's two official representatives on the project. Dr. Babak Shokri, the other official representative, and Rahighi are the surviving members of the initial four-man team.

Fereydoun Abbasi Davani and Alimohammadi were both non-resident researchers at the the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (NB Pajouheshgah Daneshhayeh Bonyadi, also knows by its acronym IPM, which stands for the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics). The two scientists were allegedly colleagues at Imam Hossein University, which is divided into two institutions, one for training officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the other which is open to the general public. Finally, Alimohammadi and Abbasi Davani have both been linked to the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP), which reportedly conducts research for the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. 

Though proof of Alimohammadi and Shahriari's alleged ties to Iran's military nuclear program and the regime is tenuous, there were sufficiently compelling indications to place Abbasi Davani under international non-proliferation sanctions as a person 'involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.' He appears in Annex I of UN Security Council Resolution 1747, which was adopted on 24 March 2007 and calls for member states to freeze his assets and exercise vigilance in allowing him to enter or transit through their territories.

Abbasi Davani has been a member of the IRGC since 1980 and saw three tours of duty during the Iran-Iraq war, according to Mashregh News. Aty News, close to the regime, reports that he teaches at the Superior National Defense University. He reportedly runs the physics program at Imam Hossein University, where he works closely with another Guardsman and physicist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi, who is also under UN sanctions.

Abbasi Davani was honored by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an awards ceremony for 21 top academics in 2007, according to Ebtekar News. In October of this year, he was one of sixty award recipients at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the creation of Beheshti University (formerly National University, Daneshgaheh Melli).

Abbasi Davani is cited as a co-author on two recent scientific articles entitled 'Implementation of main waveguide cavities of electron linear accelerator using integrated and separable methods and comparing their performance' and 'Design and construction of pulsed neutron diagnostic system for plasma focus device (SBUPF1).'

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