Killing of Iranian cyberwarfare expert sparks rumors of assassination

Iran and its regionBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS |
The Iranian and Israeli governments have remained silent about the recent killing of a member of an Iranian cyberwarfare unit, who was found shot dead near his home in Iran. The dead body of Mojtaba Ahmadi, who is said to have worked for the cyberwarfare command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was found on October 2. Witnesses said the victim was discovered in a wooded area near his home in Karaj, a town situated 12 miles west of Iranian capital Tehran. One eyewitness is said to have claimed that Ahmadi’s body bore two bullet wounds in his chest, and that he appeared to have been shot at close range, execution-style. The news has sparked widespread speculation that the IRGC member fell victim to an assassination operation orchestrated by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Others seem to believe that Ahmadi was killed as a consequence of a power struggle inside IRGC, sparked by Tehran’s apparent diplomatic rapprochement toward Washington. The IRGC, whose formal name is Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, is a branch of the Iranian military, whose mission is to protect the Islamic system by which the country is governed. It includes the Quds Force, which is the IRGC unit tasked with exporting the Iranian Revolution abroad. But the IRGC has so far dismissed rumors that Ahmadi died as a result of an assassination. Last week, Sepah News, a website that carries IRGC-approved information, termed Ahmadi’s murder “a horrific incident”, but said that “the motive of the attacker [had] not been specified” and was “being investigated”. Analysis website StratFor noted that, in the past, whenever Iranian nuclear scientists were attacked and killed through the use of explosive devices attached to their cars, the government in Tehran had been quick to denounce “the Jewish entity” for carrying out the attacks. Not this time however. Additionally, the Israeli government, which is traditionally eager to exercise its standard policy of deliberate ambiguity on all matters involving covert action, appears to be deliberately distancing itself from Ahmadi’s killing. Israeli Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who led Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service between 1988 and 1994, suggested in an interview that “many of these events are the consequence of internal disputes in Iran”. An Iranian investigation into Ahmadi’s death continues.

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