but quickly changed their reports after the Intelligence Ministry said the dead man had nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program.
If the murdered man were indeed a nuclear scientist, it would be a major embarrassment for the Intelligence Ministry, which has been saying it is providing perfect protection to prevent any more nuclear scientists from being killed by the country’s enemies.
Two nuclear scientists have been killed in Iran in the previous two years in what Iran says is a plot by the West to defeat Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The man killed Saturday was Daryoush Rezai-nejad, 35. With his wife, he was waiting on the street outside a nursery on Bani-Hashem Street, Khadem-Rezaiyan Avenue, to pick up their child, news reports said. Two motorcyclists pulled up and shouted out his name. When Rezai-nejad turned around, the motorcyclists shot him five times and drove off. News reports said his wife was injured in the shooting.
The initial news reports said Rezai-nejad was a nuclear scientist working for the Defense Ministry.
An angry response was swift. Speaker Ali Larijani told the Majlis, “The American-Zionist terrorist act yesterday against one of our country’s scientists is yet another sign of the Americans scale of animosity.” Others weighed in with similar weighty rhetoric of condemnation.
But Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi soon cut them off. “What is certain is that Daryoush Rezai-nejad was not involved in nuclear matters,” Moslehi said. “His assassination is ambiguous and we are examining it.”
Moslehi went out of his way to say it was unlikely some US-Israeli plot had killed Rezai-nejad. “Operations by foreign intelligence services generally leave signs, but we have not found any signs in this terrorist action and we have not reached any conclusion on whether foreign intelligence services were behind it.”
He did not say what kinds of “signs” foreign intelligence services generally leave behind—a calling card perhaps, or a silver bullet.
On Saturday, Rezai-nejad was described as nuclear physicist. But on Sunday, he became a doctoral student at Khajeh Nassir Tusi University studying power and electronics, nothing to do with nuclear science.
While government figures quickly fell in line with Moslehi’s flat declaration that Rezai-nejad had nothing to do with Iran‘s nuclear work, many still clung to the assertion that foreigners killed him.
For example, Deputy Science Minister Mohammad Mehdinejad-Nuri said Monday the Americans and Zionists were carrying out “deplorable plots” in Iran with the goal of “making our youth and our scientists leave the country.”
It is widely believed that Iranian nuclear scientists are being targeted.
In December 2009, Masud-Ali Mohammadi exited his house and began to get into his parked car. As he did so, an explosive in a sack tied to a parked motorbike near his car exploded, killing him instantly. It appears the bomb was set off by remote control triggered by someone in a nearby building watching the car. The Intelligence Ministry said it later arrested an Iranian who confessed he had been hired by Israeli intelligence to plant the explosive-bearing motorbike.
The regime quickly decided to upgrade security for its nuclear scientists. For one thing, it provided chauffer-driven cars to pick them up at home and bring them to work. But that was not enough.
On the morning of November 29, 2010, men on motorcycles pulled abreast of the car carrying Dr. Majid Shahriari to work and planted a magnetic bomb on the side of the vehicle. The motorcyclists drove off and the bomb exploded seconds later, killing Shahriari.
At almost the same time, another pair of motorcyclists pulled up beside a car carrying another nuclear scientist, Fereydun Abbasi, as it was stopped at a light. They planted another magnetic bomb. Abbasi heard the noise of the bomb being attached and realized what was up. He immediately jumped from the car, pulling his wife behind him. They suffered minor injuries. Abbasi was subsequently named to head the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
The regime has not reported any arrests in the two magnetic bomb attacks.
The Fars news agency said the confusion over identifying the man killed Saturday was due to a name similarity. It said Daryoush Rezai-nejad was not a nuclear scientist, but Daryoush Rezai is one of the country’s nuclear scientists. That opened up the possibility that the killers had gotten mixed up too and killed the wrong man. However, three days after the murder, no official has aired that theory.