Iran claims it has dismantled Israeli spy ring behind nuclear scientist's death

Iran state TV last night broadcast a confession by an Iranian who said senior Israeli officers helped him rehearse the bombing that killed an Iranian nuclear scientist a year ago.

Vahid Salemi/AP
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi speaks with media during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 11. Iran's intelligence chief is revealing more details about the investigation into last year's killing of a nuclear physicist.

Iran stepped up claims on Tuesday that it had dismantled an Israeli spy ring that assassinated a nuclear physicist a year ago, and bolstered its case with video of what it called a “confession” from an Israel-trained Iranian hit man.

“One of our biggest achievements was penetration into intelligence system of [Israeli spy agency Mossad] culprits, which enabled us to recognize the nature of their measures,” Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi told journalists on Tuesday in Tehran, as he announced the arrest of more than 10 suspects whom he said were members of “several networks.”

Mr. Moslehi claimed that Iran had delivered a “severe blow” to Mossad while investigating the motorcycle bomb attack that killed Prof. Masoud Ali Mohammadi in January 2010.

“The spy and terror networks were working as a cell, which means that they had no information about each other’s activities and they did not know one another,” said Moslehi, according to a translation by state-run PressTV.

Unclear why Ali Mohammadi was targeted

Footage shown with the report included communications gear and a bomb, several pistols and a silencer, and numerous magazines and rows of bullets. Reports also showed the aftermath of the attack outside the physicist’s house, in which the blast peppered his car with shrapnel and reduced the booby-trapped motorcycle to a burned frame.

It remains unclear why Mr. Ali Mohammadi was targeted, since he played little apparent role in Iran’s atomic work, which has attracted four sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions over US-led concerns that Iran wants to secretly build a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies that it wants anything more than peaceful nuclear power. But Israel has stated repeatedly that it considers Iran’s actions an “existential” threat. It has not ruled out military strikes, and is believed by analysts to be partly behind covert attempts – along with its ally and fellow arch-foe of Iran, the United States – to sabotage Iran’s efforts on the ground and with a malicious computer worm called Stuxnet.

Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief last week pushed back the Israeli prediction of when Iran would be capable of making a weapon, if it chose to do so, to 2015 or later. Meir Dagan was quoted by Israeli media as saying that unspecified “measures” used against Iran had delayed its nuclear program.

Confession: I met Israeli officers on a base

Iran’s state-owned television station broadcast Monday night what it called a video confession by Majid Jamali Fash, who it portrayed as a Mossad agent and “main element” in the attack who was trained by Israeli intelligence in Israel.

“On a trip to Tel Aviv, I got acquainted with several senior Israeli officers in a base on a highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There, I learned different things such as tailing, stalking, and planting bombs under vehicles,” said the young man, who wore casual clothes according to a PressTV translation.

He said the gate of the base was right on the main highway, a 30-minute drive from Tel Aviv, and that he had rehearsed the bombing “several times” while still in Israel. The report did not indicate when or how Mr. Jamali Fash had traveled to Israel – which typically would be an extremely difficult journey for any Iranian passport holder.

“I was given a very precise model of Dr. Ali Mohammadi’s house and its whereabouts to be very well acquainted with the real situation of his assassination,” the man said on the video, adding that even the color of the house and the tree in front were accurate.

Iran: Israel against scientific advancement in Muslim world

On Tuesday, Iran’s intelligence chief said that Israel and the US were opposed to scientific advancement in Iran and other Islamic countries.

“All prominent scientists are [endangered by] the terror threats of security services of the Zionist regime,” said Moslehi, the intelligence minister. “We feel responsible to give information to other regional and Muslim states about moves by the Zionist regime.”

Two other attacks against prominent Iranian nuclear scientists shook Tehran on Nov. 26. Majid Shahriari, who was active in Iran’s nuclear efforts, was killed when a so-called “sticky bomb” was attached to his car by a passing motorcycle; Fereydoon Abbasi Davani was lightly wounded in a similar attack.

Officials speaking at a memorial service on Saturday, which marked the 40th day after the death of Mr. Shahriari, were defiant. “Zionists cannot stop Iran’s progress by killing Iranian scientists,” said Ebrahim Raeesi, Iran’s deputy judiciary chief, according to Iranian media. “The two scientists were assassinated Israeli-style.”

Iran: West took advantage of internal unrest

On Monday, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry first stated that it had “dismantled” Israeli espionage networks in Iran, but claimed its reach extended far beyond Iran’s borders.

“Mossad … has had some European and non-European bases as well as bases in some neighboring countries and used them to direct the unmanly assassination of Ali Mohammadi,” the ministry stated.

In Tehran, Moslehi also linked the attacks on nuclear specialists to the disputed June 2009 presidential election and its violent aftermath, in which scores – and possibly hundreds – of Iranians protesting fraud died during weeks of unrest and a bloody crackdown.

“With regard to an intelligence gap created in the Islamic Republic during [last year’s] sedition movement, the enemy thought that it could use the opportunity to achieve successes while [Iran’s] intelligence bodies were embroiled in the sedition,” said Moslehi, according to PressTV.

The Intelligence minister repeated Iran’s claims that Israel, the US, and the NATO military alliance had met members of anti-Iran militant groups outside Iran. Israel, he said, had told the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO/MEK) that they should “focus their activities on nuclear sites of [Iran] and damage them.”

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