Iran revises earlier reports of nuclear scientist’s assassination

Daryoush Rezaei

Daryoush Rezaei

The government of Iran has revised earlier reports of a nuclear scientist’s assassination, saying the murdered man was a university student, and not a nuclear physicist, as it was first announced. On Saturday afternoon, Iran’s government-controlled media began carrying news of the fatal shooting of a man named Darioush Rezaei, in the Iranian capital Tehran. According to early reports, Rezaei, 35, who researched neutron transport at a Tehran university, was identified as “an expert with links to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran”. He was allegedly shot dead in broad daylight by two men on a motorcycle, as he and his wife were returning to their house after picking up their four-year-old daughter from kindergarten. The report, which was first aired by the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) was rapidly echoed by other Iranian government-controlled media. Early the next day, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, condemned the attack as a provocation by Israeli and American intelligence agencies, which Iran suspects of being behind a series of assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists during the past five years. Later on Sunday, however, a number of Iranian media started withdrawing the reports of Rezaei’s assassination, saying there had been “some confusion” about the dead man’s identity. Eventually it emerged that the man’s full name was Darioush Rezaei-Nejad, and that he was not a career academic nor “a physicist involved in the disputed nuclear program”, but rather an “a university student” studying for a master’s degree in electronics. The government of Iran blamed the initial erroneous reports on “mix-up over the victim’s name”. Iranian observers familiar with the notoriously unreliable Iranian media (both government- and dissident-leaning), will be hardly surprised at this sudden U-turn by the government in Tehran. On the other hand, one can perhaps excuse the Iranians for being somewhat jumpy about nuclear scientists’ assassinations. In the most recent such incident, in November of 2010, teams of unknown motorcycle assailants riding through Tehran’s morning rush-hour traffic, attached bombs on the cars of two Iranian nuclear scientists, killing one of them.

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