Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prominent Iranian Scientist Assassinated

According to PressTV, a prominent Iranian scientist has been assassinated in a remote-controlled bomb attack.

Dr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a lecturer of physics at Tehran University was killed by a blast from a booby-trapped motorbike on Tuesday.

The explosion took place near the professor's home in Qeytariyeh neighborhood, in northern Tehran.

Iran's police and security forces have been activated, and are investigating to determine responsibility for this act of terrorism.


Nader Uskowi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nader Uskowi said...

This is a tragic loss for Iran’s scientific community. Dr. Mohammadi was a well-respected physicist. He was also an early supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi. He was among the 240 scientists that signed an open letter before the election in support of Moussavi.

This morning, the MKO has denied involvement in Mohammadi’s assassination. The US government has also called Iran’s accusation of its involvement in the bombing “absurd.”

Mark Pyruz said...

I agree, Nader. It's a tragic loss.

Have you seen the videos? The crime scene investigation appears crude, especially in regards to evidence collection. The scene wasn't properly cordoned off while clean up crews were prematurely deployed.

The political response, so far, appears reflexive. This will, no doubt, be subject to further internal development.

Kemjika said...

this is a very dangerous precedent and it signals escalation of this nuclear issue.

Nader Uskowi said...

Mohammadi's assassination is a very complex case. Opposing circles could have benefitted from this.

Whenever you have someone with sympathies to the opposition assassinated, in Tehran nonetheless involving professional assassins, and especially when the police investigation is not done professionally (as seen in the videos referred to by Mark), there is always a feeling that someone in power might have been involved. Although foreign involvement cannot be ruled out (for obvious reasons), but such involvement cannot be considered as the sole source.

This is a tragic loss for the scientific community.

Mark Pyruz said...

Admittedly, I've only seen one short video. But I have to say, there were no forensic teams visible, with street cleaners already deployed on the scene, even amid the victim being lifted onto a gurney and lifted into an emergency ambulance.

So far there appears to be variations of accusation against the US, Israel and a relatively obscure monarchist sympathizer group, while opposition elements (particularly in the West) conjure up conspiratorial angles.

We'll see how this all develops.

Anonymous said...

The late Prof. Alimohammadi was specialist in particle physics. His publications that are listed on his University of Tehran website support this. He was not involved in Iran's nuclear industy and today the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization has stated that he was never an employee of theirs.

Prof/ Alimohammadi's specialty is further demonstrated by his function as Iran's repesentative on the council of the initiative known as "Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East" (SESAME), which is based in Jordan. Here is his listing from SESAME's website:


He was a self-declared supported of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and a signatory to the declaration of support for his presidential bid with over 400 other academics. Here is that declatation, with Prof. Alimohammadi's name underlined:


A photo of the scene of the attack seems to show numerous potmarks in the area, likely caused by steel balls encased in the bomb, in order to cause maximum damage to 'soft targets,' which of course it tragically did.

Given that the universities remain hotbeds of unrest against the regime and the recent petitions of support by many academics against widespread arrests of students, it may be that elements within the regime targeted a high profile academic as a 'shot across the bow' of the academic community.

The unfounded allegations put out first of all by state news outlets (PressTV and Fars) that he was a "nuclear scientist" would be used to try to play the nationalist card against "foreign enemies" of Iran's nuclear industry, which Ahmadinejad identifies with.

Nader Uskowi said...

Anon 12:40,

Thanks for your valuable comments clarifying some of the information surrounding the case.

Mark, in his original post, refers to Dr. Mohammadi only as an Iranian scientist, not using the words nuclear scientist. I did not use the nuclear designation either in my comments. I knew him as a physicist and as an opposition sympathizer, but had/have no info on his possible connection with the country's nuclear program.

Anonymous said...

Photos of the aftermath of the bomb attack on Prof. Alimohammadi are here:


Photos show:

1) Potmarks apparently due to steel balls in the bomb, showing some experience on part of the bomb-maker.
Surprisingly, these potmarks appear to be concentrated on the white gate of the house (the victim'e residence?). Could it be that the device was not an IED, but in fact a military anti-personnel mine with directional blast?!

2) The over-hasty cleanup operation by gangs of municipal cleaners, under the watchful eyes of plainclothes security services members!

Schmedlap said...

Anon 1:30,

The damage done in that large of an area is too much to be from an anti-personnel device. The damage to the door shows up better because it is painted and metal. The marks where projectiles bounce off of the stone wall are not likely to show as well, assuming that it leaves any mark.

The door marks that you point out, however, might be an indication of precisely where the bomb was placed. A straight-on hit on the door would be more likely to leave marks than glancing strikes, so it is possible that it was placed directly in front of the door (though any cratering or other marks on the ground will be a better indicator).

Anonymous said...

Schmedlap 1:50 PM

Thank you for your comments.

By "anti-personnel mine," I was thinking of was a Claymore-type device.

The damage further from the target area seems to be maily broken glass and some falling stone claddings.

Could not a Claymore (hidden on a motorcycle or a trash-can, as have variously been suggested) have done that?

Schmedlap said...


Considering the distance from the blast, I doubt a claymore would have done that. I agree that there does not appear to be a whole lot of structural damage, but one of the photos appears to show damage to the second floor wall at a distance that suggests to me there was a more powerful explosive than the small amount of C-4 in a claymore.

Also, if a claymore were used, it would be fairly ineffective if hidden inside a car, trailer, metal mail box, or similar. It would need to strapped to the outside of something, or otherwise stood up with a clear shot of the target and camouflaged with something of negligible thickness to ensure it was effective.

I do agree something directional could have been used, but given how crude (30% probability of a kill) and inexpensive (less than $200) a claymore is, I suspect the (IRGC?) hit men employed something more sophisticated.

Anonymous said...

Schmedlap 9:45 PM

Thank you for your comments.

Here is a video clip of the scene of the attack a few minutes after the blast, which might provide more clues.


Although enough time has passed for the body of the victim to be removed from his car (a silver Peugeot 405) and covered in a blanket by people in the area, there is still no police or ambulance.

Only the firemen arrive, but there is no fire.

It seems that the victim's car had just exited the building with the white metal gate, which was shown being potmarked by the bomb in the posted photographs.

Schmedlap said...


Just viewed the video. One of my patrols detonated a claymore on a street that was about that narrow in 2005, in Iraq (similar walls, as well). It was used against a car full of gunmen who were attempting to quickly approach their position and then dismount for an assault. The angle at which the vehicle was hit was a little different and the distance was probably twice as far than in the video, so it's not the best comparison, but I don't recall the car appearing nearly as burnt as the one in the video. Also, the blast did not kill any of the occupants. It just scared the crap out of them, slightly wounded them, and caused them to prematurely exit the vehicle in a disorganized manner.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a facsimile of a petition signed by Prof. Alimohammadi (and other academics) at University of Tehran's Physics Department, protesting against the attack by the regime's security forces and Basij militias against students dorms during which several students 'disappeared' and others hospitalized due to savage beatings. It is dated June 15, 2009 (3 days after the disputed presidential election):