Amid rising tensions in the Middle East and a day after IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz warned that unnatural events would plague Iran, a nuclear scientist was assassinated on Wednesday in a meticulously planned car bombing in downtown Tehran.

Iran accused Israel and the United States of carrying it out.

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The assassination on Wednesday was the fourth attack against Iranian nuclear scientists in two years and followed by two months a series of mysterious explosions, one of which killed a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard general and missile expert in November.

According to Iranian reports, two men on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the door of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan’s silver sedan as he drove down a busy street close to Tehran University during the morning rush hour. The chemical engineer’s passenger also died, Iranian media said, while a passer-by was slightly hurt.

Iranian media described Roshan as a senior nuclear scientist and deputy director of a department at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant near Tehran. The semi-official news agency Mehr said Roshan had recently met officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The assassination came just a few days after Iran announced it was activating the Fordow enrichment facility near Qom, buried hundreds of feet under a mountain.

This raised speculation that Roshan might be connected to the activation of the centrifuges at the new facility.

While Israel declined comment and the US denied its involvement, the assassination of Roshan was just the latest in a series of attacks on Iranian scientists in recent years.

Stressing that he did not know who assassinated the scientist, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai wrote on his Facebook page: “I will definitely not shed a tear for him.”

In July 2011, scientist Darioush Rezaeinejad was shot dead by gunmen in Tehran.

In November 2010, Majid Shahriari, a senior Iranian nuclear scientist, was killed in a car bombing similar to yesterday’s. In a separate attack on the same day, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, a senior scientist and current head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, succeeded in escaping the detonation of a bomb. In January 2010, scientist Masoud Alimohammadi was killed when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle blew up outside his home in north Tehran.

The Atomic Energy Organization, which has failed to persuade the West that its quest for nuclear power has no hidden military goal, said the killing of Roshan would not deter it.

“We will continue our path without any doubt... Our path is irreversible,” it said in a statement carried on television.

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Iranian threat

“The heinous acts of America and the criminal Zionist regime will not disrupt our glorious path... The more you kill us, the more our nation will awake.”

First Vice President Muhammad Reza Rahimi, quoted by the IRNA news agency, said that “Iran’s enemies should know they cannot prevent Iran’s progress by carrying out such terrorist acts.”

The attack nonetheless bore some of the hallmarks of sophisticated intelligence agencies capable of circumventing Iran’s own extensive security apparatus, and showed apparent concern for harm to passers-by.

While witnesses spoke of a frighteningly loud explosion at 8:20 a.m., and parts of the Peugeot 405 sedan ended up in the branches of the trees lining Gol Nabi Street, much of the car was left intact. The containment of the blast to the vehicle suggested a charge designed to kill the occupants but limit the damage to those targeted.

Witnesses said a motorcycle, from which the rear passenger reached out to stick the device to the side of the car, made off into heavy commuter traffic.

Reuters contributed to the report.

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