(photo credit: AP)
Assailants on motorcycles attached bombs to the cars of two nuclear scientists as they were driving to work in Teheran Monday, killing one and seriously wounding the other, according to Iranian state media reports, which accused Israeli agents on motorbikes of attaching the bombs to their cars.
"In a criminal terrorist act, the agents of the Zionist regime attacked two prominent university professors who were on their way to work," Iran's state television network reported on its web site, referring to Israel.
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Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the man killed was involved in a major project at the country's chief nuclear agency, though he did not give specifics. Some Iranian media reported that the wounded scientist was a laser expert at Iran's Defense Ministry and one of the country's few top specialists in nuclear isotope separation.
Nuclear chief Salehi, issued a stern warning as he rushed to hospital to see the surviving scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi.
"Don't play with fire. The patience of the Iranian nation has limits. If it runs out of patience, bad consequences will await enemies," the official news agency IRNA quoted Salehi as saying as he met Abbasi at his hospital bedside. Salehi, one of Iran's vice presidents, was apparently referring to Israel and the US, which Iran alleges are trying to damage its nuclear program.
Salehi also indicated that the scientist killed, Majid Shahriari, was involved in Iran's nuclear activities. Teheran's uranium enrichment program is at the center of a bitter row between Iran on one side and the US and its allies on the other. Uranium enrichment is a process that can be used to produce both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
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The assailants, who escaped, drove by their targets on motorcycles and attached the bombs as the cars were moving. They exploded shortly thereafter, state TV reported.
Shahriari, the scientist who was killed, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Teheran. His wife, who was in the car with him, was wounded. Salehi, the nuclear chief who also heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Shahriari was one of his students and his death was a big loss.
"Shahriari had good cooperation with the AEOI. He was involved in one of the big AEOI projects which is a source of pride for the Iranian nation," IRNA quoted him as saying. He didn't provide any details on the project. But the AEOI is involved in Iran's uranium enrichment program.
"The enemy took our dearest flower, but must know that this nation, through resistance and all its might, will make efforts to remove problems and achieve its desires," Salehi said.
A second, separate attack in the capital Teheran wounded the nuclear physicist Abbasi. His wife was also in the car with him, and she was also wounded.
A pro-government website, mashreghnews.ir, said Abbasi held a Ph.D. in nuclear physics and was a laser expert at Iran's Defense Ministry and one of few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation.
Isotope separation is the process of concentrating specific isotopes of a chemical element by removing other isotopes, for example separating natural uranium from enriched uranium. This is a crucial process in the manufacture of uranium fuel for nuclear power stations, and is also required for the creation of uranium-based nuclear weapons.
The site said Abbasi has long been a member of the Revolutionary Guard, the country's most powerful military force. It said he was also a lecturer at Imam Hossein University, affiliated to the Guard.
The attacks bore close similarities to another in January that killed Teheran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor. He was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.
The latest attacks come a day after the release of internal State Department cables by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks, including several that vividly detail Arab fears over Iran's nuclear program and its growing political ambitions in the region.
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