Iranian nuclear scientist shot dead on Tehran street

Borzou Daragahi, reporting from Beirut  – Los Angeles Times July 23, 2011

The victim, Dariush Rezai, 45, was described by the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency as a professional associated with the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, which oversees the country’s complex of nuclear installations, including uranium enrichment facilities that produce fuel for energy reactors.

U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as many Western diplomats and nonproliferation experts, believe Iran is using the cover of a domestic energy program to assemble the building blocks for an eventual weapons program.

Rezai, who reportedly held a doctorate in physics, was reportedly shot by gunmen on a motorcycle outside his home in the southeast of the capital, Tehran, according to the semi-official Mehr News Agency.

“The investigation to identify the motorcyclists involved in the assassination has begun,” Mehr quoted an unnamed police official as saying, adding that Rezai’s wife had also been wounded and taken to a hospital.

The attack took place near the Imam Ali military base, a centerpiece in the archipelago of secretive and well-guarded Revolutionary Guard compounds housing sensitive equipment and personnel around the country.

There was no claim of responsibility. Western and Israeli officials have vowed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran blamed the U.S. and Israel for a nearly simultaneous pair of November 2010 attacks that killed nuclear scientist Majid Shahriar and injured Fereidoun Abbasi, who is considered a leading figure in the country’s atomic research program. A remote-control bomb attack in January 2010 killed physicist Massoud Ali Mohammadi.

daragahi@latimes.com

Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran contributed to this report.

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