A man shot dead on a Tehran street by motorcycle-riding gunmen last weekend was a scientist involved in suspected Iranian attempts to make nuclear weapons and not a student as officially claimed, a foreign government official and a former UN nuclear inspector said Thursday.
The man was shot Saturday by a pair of gunmen firing from motorcycles in an attack similar to other recent assassinations of nuclear scientists that Iran blames on the United States and Israel.
media initially identified him as Darioush Rezaei, a physics professor and expert in neutron transport, but backtracked within hours, with officials subsequently naming him as Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electronics student.
An official, from a member nation of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, verified that the victim was named Rezaeinejad, but said he participated in developing high-voltage switches, a key component in setting off the explosions needed to trigger a nuclear warhead. An abstract seen by the AP and co-authored by Rezaeinejad appears to back that claim.
Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons and insists its activities are geared only to generate fuel for a future reactor network and other peaceful purposes. But it refuses to cease activities that could be used to make such weapons, despite UN sanctions, and is stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to probe intelligence-based allegations that it worked on components of such arms.
Because of UN embargoes prohibiting the sale to Iran of sensitive nuclear technologies, it has tried to secure components clandestinely, including the high-voltage switches.
The official described Rezaeinejad as a physicist who had worked in the past for the Iranian defense ministry on projects linked to nuclear weapons development, including the switches. He asked for anonymity because his information was privileged.
Rezaeinejad succeeded on his project, according to an abstract of an article he co-authored three years ago and presented to the 16th Conference of Iranian Power Engineering. If that is so, Iran would be a step closer to the technology needed to set off a nuclear explosion.
AP has learned that the article, entitled "Designing, Manufacturing and Testing a Closing Switch" provides "details about the designing, simulating, building and testing" of such hardware.
"The said switch has been manufactured and ... the results of tests show that the switch worked properly and met expectations," said the abstract.
Such switches have nonmilitary uses as well in medical and scientific applications. But a former UN nuclear inspector – who also asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information – said the title of the document would make "an explosive application" likely, along with the fact that the co-author, Mojtaba Dadashnejad, had published several separate articles about explosives testing.