, TEHRAN, Jan 12 – Iranian nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohammadi was killed on Tuesday in a rare bomb attack in Tehran which state media quickly blamed on Iran\’s archfoes Israel and the United States.
Mohammadi, a lecturer at Tehran university, died when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle was triggered by remote control outside his home in the northern neighbourhood of Qeytariyeh, state media said.
He was "assassinated" by "a bomb which US and Zionist agents had already placed near his house," state television said without naming any sources.
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told the ISNA news agency that Mohammadi was a lecturer in nuclear energy and said a booby-trapped motorbike parked outside his house exploded as he was getting into his car.
"The judiciary has launched an investigation … no suspects have yet been arrested," he said.
Bomb attacks are rare in Iran although several security officials and members of the elite Revolutionary Guards have been killed in bombings by rebels in restive Sistan-Baluchestan province in the east of the country.
A witness told AFP that Tuesday\’s explosion was a "strong blast, breaking windows in neighbouring houses and cars."
Iran\’s state-run Arabic-language television Al-Alam identified Mohammadi as a "hezbollahi" teacher — a term used for staunch supporters of the Iranian regime.
"This assassination may have been carried out by the Hypocrites (Iran\’s exiled People\’s Mujahedeen opposition) or planned by the Zionist regime," Al-Alam said.
Iranian authorities have consistently accused archfoes the United States and Israel of seeking to foment unrest in Iran.
The two countries have never ruled out a military strike to thwart Iran\’s controversial nuclear drive, which the West suspects is masking an atomic weapons programme.
None of the reports said whether Mohammadi was connected to the controversial nuclear drive and a colleague described him as non-political.
"He was a prominent full professor but he was not a political figure. He had no political activity," Ali Maghari, who heads the faculty of sciences at Tehran university, told Mehr news agency.
However, Mohammadi\’s name appeared on a list of academics backing Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi for the disputed June 12 presidential election, which gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term.
The opposition claims the vote was massively rigged in Ahmadinejad\’s favour and has for the past six months been staging anti-government protests at every opportunity, many of which have been broken up by police who have arrested hundreds of demonstrators.
Hardliners have accused the People\’s Mujahedeen of infiltrating the anti-government protests and carrying out attacks on regime targets.
Iran has been under international pressure to halt its sensitive uranium enrichment programme which is at the centre of fears about Iran\’s ambitions as the process which makes nuclear fuel can also be used to make atom bombs.
Despite three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, Iran has continued to expand its nuclear programme.
World powers seeking to curb Iran\’s atomic drive are still awaiting a response from Tehran to a UN-brokered offer to ship most of Iran\’s low enriched uranium abroad to be further refined into reactor fuel.
Iran has rejected the offer and has offered its own counter-proposal of a staged swap.
Some Western powers have dismissed the Iranian proposal and insist the Islamic republic accept the UN-backed deal or face further sanctions.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain France and Germany will meet late this week to discuss sanctions against Iran, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Top US general David Petraeus said on Sunday that Washington has developed contingency plans to address Iran\’s nuclear ambitions if negotiations falter.
Petraeus, who heads US Central Command (CENTCOM) that oversees the Middle East, told CNN that Iran\’s nuclear facilities "certainly can be bombed," even though they are reported to be heavily fortified.
Iran dismissed the comments as "thoughtless."