Iranian authorities are investigating the coworker of a nuclear scientist shot dead this summer for possibly leaking info about the scientist, according to the Associated Press. The dead scientist, Darioush Rezaeinejad, was the fourth scientist allegedly linked to Iran's nuclear weapons program killed by unknown assailants in the past four years.
According to the AP, an intelligence report by a member nation of the International Atomic Energy Agency says the Iranians think a specific colleague of the murdered scientist was linked to "unreliable elements," and might have been the source of a leak about Rezaeinejad. The IAEA report also says Rezaeinjad played a "key role" in Iran's nuclear program, and an IAEA official told the AP that Rezaeinejad was working on a trigger for a nuclear weapon.
The story of a mole comes as the Iranian envoy to the IAEA, now holding its meeting in Vienna, told reporters that his country would not retaliate against whoever is killing its nuclear scientists. "We want not only our scientists, we want all scientists of the world to be protected," said Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh. He said he hoped both the IAEA and the United Nations would investigate the murders.
Since 2007, four different scientists allegedly associated with the nation's nuclear weapons program have died via bomb, gunshot or poisoning, while a fifth barely survived a car bombing. Iran has blamed the killings on Israel, the United States and Britain. The U.S. has denied any involvement, while the Israelis have declined comment.
Rezaeinejad, the most recent victim, was shot outside his daughter's Tehran kindergarten in July by two men on motorcycles. At the time, an unconfirmed report in an Israeli intelligence publication said that Rezaeinejad was working on a nuclear detonator and was seen daily at a nuclear lab in northern Tehran.
Rezaeinejad's murder sparked official outrage in Iran. State media quickly published an online report in which a leader of the nation's parliament said the killing showed the "desperation" of the U.S. and Israel.
In most cases, Iranian officials blame the deaths and disappearances on the West without equivocation. In November 2010, a magnetic bomb placed by a motorcyclist killed nuclear physicist Majid Shahriari in his car. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly blamed "Western governments and the Zionist regime" for the twin bombings.
The same day, Fereydoon Abbasi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization was wounded when a motorcyclist detonated a magnetic bomb under their car by remote control. Abbasi was on a U.N. list of people sanctioned for suspected links to nuclear activities.
In Vienna on Monday, Abbasi himself blamed the U.S., Israel and the U.K. for his brush with death, claiming that British intelligence had followed him for six years and then entrusted the Israelis with the responsibility of killing him.