Iranian Nuclear Scientist Dies in Twin Bombings in Tehran

An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed and another wounded in two bomb attacks on Monday that Iranian authorities alleged was part of a conspiracy by the West to dismantle Iran's nuclear program, the Associated Press reports. The attacks—in which bombs were attached to the cars of the two targets—were similar in style to the slaying of physicist Masoud Alimohammadi, who was killed by a remote-controlled motorcycle bomb parked next to his car in January.

The man killed in Monday's attacks was Majid Shahriari, a professor of nuclear engineering at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. The other victim was Feredoun Abbasi, a high ranking official of the Defense Ministry who was involved in the country's nuclear program, according to several reports. The two men were parking their cars at separate locations near the university campus on Monday morning when witnesses saw a group of motorcyclists approach the vehicles. The bombs were apparently attached to the cars and detonated a little later, killing Shahriari on the spot and injuring Abbasi. Shahriari's wife and Abbasi's wife were injured as well.

The head of Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, blamed Israel and the United States for the attacks while talking to reporters during a visit to see Abbasi in hospital. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Salehi said Shahriari was involved in one of Iran's most important nuclear projects. Then Salehi appeared to issue a warning to Israel and the West, saying: "Don't play with fire. The patience of the Iranian nation has limits. If it runs out of patience, bad consequences will await enemies."

Iranian officials had a similar reaction when Alimohammadi died, although opponents of Iran's government alleged that the physicist had been killed by the regime for being sympathetic to the reformist movement. Contrary to the government's claims, Alimohammadi was not a nuclear scientist but a theoretical physicist who published papers on string theory and other topics.

Farhad Ardalan, a physicist at the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences in Tehran, says it is unclear if Alimohammadi's assassination and Monday's attacks have anything more in common than the manner in which they were carried out. He notes that the government has not responded to appeals from the Physics Society of Iran and other academics for an investigation into the death of Alimohammadi. "With the lack of any credible information, it is very hard to say what is happening," he says.