An undated photo released by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency claims to show Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who was killed by a car bomb in Tehran on Wednesday, Fars News Agency / AP Pho
Circumstantial evidence suggests the Mossad is responsible for a string of slayings of Iran’s nuclear experts, most recently Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan. At the very least Israel’s defense establishment would like allies to believe its spies have pulled off these “events that happen unnaturally.”
Like three previous Iranian scientists ambushed on their morning commute, the latest nuclear expert to die on his way to work was a victim of Israel’s Mossad, Western intelligence sources tell TIME. Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, an expert on a phase of uranium enrichment, perished on a Tehran street on Wednesday after an assassin in a passing motorcycle attached a magnetized explosive to the side of his Peugeot 405. “Yeah, one more,” a senior Israeli official said with a smile. “I don’t feel sad for him.”
Wednesday’s attack followed the pattern of previous operations planned by Mossad and carried out over the past two years by Iranians trained and paid by Israel’s spy agency, according to intelligence sources. The targets were chosen from the ranks of scientists seen as crucial to Iran’s nuclear effort — the country’s top physicist, Majid Shahriari, was killed by a magnetized bomb in October 2010 — then shadowed for weeks to determine their routines and points of vulnerability.
A year ago, Iranian television broadcast the confession of one alleged agent who described studying a scale model of the home of the scientist he helped assassinate by hiding a bomb on a motorcycle outside the front door. “It was the exact copy of the real one, even the size, material, its color, the tree next to it, its asphalt, the street curb, the bridge,” said Majid Jamali Fashi on the air. He said he viewed the model in Mossad’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, which he described in detail. Intelligence sources confirmed Fashi’s involvement in a Mossad cell that the sources claim was revealed to Iran by a third country.
Fashi was sentenced to death for his role in the killing of nuclear physicist Massoud Ali Mohammadi, who suffered mortal shrapnel wounds in front of his house on Jan. 12, 2010. Three other nuclear scientists heard magnetic bombs snap onto their car doors during their commute to work — a method Fashi claimed he had also been taught by the Israelis. Besides Ahmadi-Roshan and Shahriari, the victims include Fereydoon Abbasi, a university professor who survived and was promoted to head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
A fourth scientist, Darush Rezaei-Nejad, was killed outside his home by shots fired from a motorcycle on July 23, 2011. A student of electrical engineering, his connection to the Iranian nuclear program remains a matter of dispute.
The similarities among the attacks were not lost on Iranian authorities, who immediately blamed both Israel and the U.S. for Wednesday’s attack. “The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists and is the work of the Zionists,” Tehran’s Deputy Governor Safar Ali Baratlou was quoted as saying by the Fars News Agency.
Israel is officially silent on the incident. However, its top spokesman for the country’s military posted this on Facebook: “Don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but for sure I am not shedding a tear.” The Obama Administration insisted it had nothing to do with the attack. “The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declared. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her denial of U.S. involvement “categorical.”