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Blasts target Iranian nuclear scientists

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Two separate explosions killed a nuclear scientist and injured another in the Iranian capital Monday morning, official news outlets reported.

Both scholars’ wives and a driver were also injured in the attacks, according to the news agencies. The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering team at the Shahid Behesti university in Tehran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks and no arrests have been made, Iranian officials said. But they prompted a stern warning by the normally cool-headed head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, who described Shahriari as a former student.

“Do not play with fire,” he said, according to IRNA. “There is a limit to the Iranian nation’s patience and if we run out of patience the enemy will suffer adverse consequences. Of course we still maintain our patience.”

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The injured scholar, Fereydoun Abbas, also taught at Shahid Beheshti, one of Iran’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

The assassins, riding motorcycles, tossed bombs at -- or attached them to -- vehicles of the two Shahid Behesti University professors as they drove with their spouses en route to work between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m..

“A Pulsar motorbike drove close to Dr. Shahriari’s car and stuck a bomb on his car which after a few seconds exploded,” Tehran police chief Hossein Sajednia was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

“Experts are examining the incidents,” Sajednia said. “The type of the bombs and explosive materials and the extent of damage have not been determined yet.”

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Shahriari’s research included medical applications of nuclear technology, according to research papers which cite his authorship.

A powerful and still mysterious Jan. 12 explosion killed Iranian physicist Massoud Ali Mohammadi near his home. The attack led to speculation that Iran’s international adversaries were targeting scientists as a way of slowing its nuclear research program. But others said he might have been killed for supporting the political movement opposed to the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Fars described the two professors as members of the pro-government Basiji militia and blamed the United States and Israel for the attacks. “Due to their lack of hope for brain drain from Iran, agents of America and the Zionist regime resorted to physical elimination and terrorism,” the news agency said.

daragahi@latimes.com


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