TEHRAN — A nuclear scientist was shot dead on Saturday by unknown assailants on a motorcycle, the latest expert with links to Iran’s controversial atomic programme to be targeted, local media reported.
“A physics professor and nuclear scientist was assassinated a few hours ago in front of his house in Tehran,” Mehr news agency reported at 1430 GMT.
The ISNA news agency identified the victim as Dariush Rezaei, 35, an expert with links to the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI). Fars news agency said he was also associated with the defence ministry.
Top provincial security official Safar Ali Baratlou told the ILNA news agency that no one had yet been arrested in connection with the shooting.
Mehr reported that Rezaie’s wife was also wounded in the attack and rushed to hospital.
It said Rezaei studied nuclear engineering in Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, had a degree in neutron physics and undertook research for the AEOI.
Several Iranian nuclear scientists have disappeared in recent years or been targeted in attacks the Islamic republic has blamed on the United States and Israel, which suspect Tehran’s atomic programme masks a nuclear weapons drive.
Last November 29, Majid Shahriari was killed in the capital when men on motorcycles attached a bomb to his car, and current nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi Davani survived a similar assassination attempt on the same day.
Abbasi Davani had been targeted by UN Security Council sanctions under Resolution 1747 adopted in March 2007. He was identified as a senior defence ministry and armed forces logistics scientist.
Another top Iranian nuclear scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, was killed in a bomb blast on January 12, 2010, which Tehran blamed on “mercenaries” in the pay of the US and Israeli intelligence services.
Following the attacks, Tehran vowed to boost security for its nuclear scientists.
Earlier this year the authorities announced they had arrested the man behind the bombing that killed Ali Mohammadi, saying they had cracked a network working for the Israeli spy agency Mossad.
Iranian leaders have also blamed arch-foes Israel and Washington for the unexplained disappearances of several of their military officials and nuclear scientists in recent years, and for a computer attack by the Stuxnet malware in the summer of 2010 against its centrifuges enriching uranium.
Iran is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear programme, and the most recent round of talks between Tehran and the world powers broke down in Istanbul in January.
The Islamic republic is currently under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
The United States and the 27-member European Union have also imposed other unilateral punitive measures against Tehran.
Iran, however, remains adamant that it will push ahead with its controversial enrichment activities, which can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the fissile material for an atomic warhead.
Tehran insists it will use the enriched uranium to fuel its future nuclear power plants, and that its atomic programme is entirely peaceful.
In June, Abbasi Davani announced plans to triple Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity, which Tehran says will be used to fuel its sole medical research reactor in the capital.
Iran began its higher-grade enrichment in February 2010, following the collapse of negotiations with the West over the acquisition of nuclear fuel.