The head of Iran’s cyberwarfare program was shot dead by gunmen who traveled on motorcycle, according to a report Thursday in the British newspaper The Telegraph.
According to the report, the body of Cyber War Headquarters Commander Mojtaba Ahmadi was found in a woods northwest of Tehran after having gone missing on Saturday.
Previously, five Iranian nuclear scientists and Iran’s ballistic missile program chief had been killed in mysterious circumstances since 2007. Iran accuses the Israeli Mossad of killing its scientists.
Only on Sunday Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that Israel “cannot kill all of our scientists. They have unfortunately assassinated some of them and nobody has raised an eyebrow about it, which is a source of great concern for us that the world.”
“The United States which is supposed to be against terrorism is allowing terrorists to kill innocent Iranian scientists,” Zarif said.
An Israeli minister on Thursday speculated that the cyberwarfare chief may have been killed in an “internal dispute.”
Yaakov Peri, former head of the Shin Bet who today serves as Israel’s science minister, told Israel Radio, “I assume Iran will accuse Israel.” But that doesn’t mean Israel was involved, Peri suggested. “Many of these events are the consequence of internal disputes in Iran.”
The Telegraph reports:
Ahmadi was last seen leaving his home for work on Saturday. He was later found with two bullets in the heart, according to Alborz, a website linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. “I could see two bullet wounds on his body and the extent of his injuries indicated that he had been assassinated from a close range with a pistol,” an eyewitness told the website.
The commander of the local police said that two people on a motorbike had been involved in the assassination.
On their Facebook page, Cyber War Headquarters officers posted condolence messages for Ahmadi who they confirmed was their commander. This public display of mourning prompted criticism from one commenter on the Revolutionary Guard website Alborz who wrote “Stop giving more information about him. The counter-revolutionaries will take advantage of his murder.”
“It sounds like a hit job for a security officer of this importance,” wrote another.
The Telegraph reports that the Imam Hassan Mojtaba division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed the killing and said it was being investigated, but warned against speculating “prematurely about the identity of those responsible for the killing.”
“Western officials said the information was still being assessed, but previous deaths have been serious blows to Iran’s security forces. Tighter security measures around leading commanders and nuclear scientists have instilled a culture of fear in some of the most sensitive parts of the security establishment,” reports The Telegraph.
The reported killing made headlines Thursday morning in Israel, where it was displayed prominently on news websites and was at the top of radio broadcasts.
Motorcycles have been utilized in previous attacks. In January 2012, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the director of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant, was killed by two perpetrators who attached a bomb magnetically to his car and then quickly fled the scene in Tehran by motorcycle.
Another explosion occurred in January 2010 when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near the car of senior Tehran University physics professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi as he was heading for work.
This post has been updated.