TEHRAN — Unidentified assailants riding motorcycles carried out separate bomb attacks here Monday against two of the country’s top nuclear scientists, killing one and prompting accusations that the United States and Israel were again trying to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.
The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, managed a “major project” for the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the semiofficial IRNA news agency. His injured colleague, Fereydoon Abbasi, is believed to be even more important; he is on the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions list for ties to the Iranian nuclear effort.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that “undoubtedly the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved” in the attacks. He also publicly acknowledged, apparently for the first time, that the country’s nuclear program had been disrupted recently by malicious computer software that attacked its centrifuges.
The two scientists are among the most prominent in the Iranian nuclear world, and the brazen daylight attacks on them seemed certain to worsen tensions over the country’s controversial uranium enrichment efforts.
Israel and the United States have often signaled that they will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. Neither has acknowledged pursuing sabotage or assassinations there, but both are widely believed to be pursuing ways to undermine the country’s nuclear program short of bombing reactor sites, including damaging the centrifuges to slow down the production of enriched uranium.
Philip Crowley, the State Department spokesman, did not address the Iranian accusations in detail.
“All I can say is we decry acts of terrorism wherever they occur and beyond that, we do not have any information on what happened,” he said.
Diplomatic efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program appear to have failed, and this year the United Nations and Western powers imposed a new, tougher round of sanctions.