IRAN: Officials reject rebel group's claim of kidnapping nuclear scientist
The ethnic Baluchi group Jundollah claimed on its website (Persian link) that it had kidnapped an Iranian nuclear scientist and would begin forcing him to tell his secrets unless the Iranians released 200 prisoners from the group.
But the story may turn out to be more like a tale from filmmakers the Coen brothers than an espionage thriller. Iranian authorities say the man who was kidnapped, Amir-Hossein Shirvani, is not a nuclear scientist, rather a laborer who was fired from a nuclear facility in Isfahan four years ago.
"Amir-Hossein Shirvani worked as a welder and later as a driver in one of the contractor companies of the AEOI for a short time,” Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Hamid Khadem-Qaemi said Saturday, according to the website of Iran's state-owned Press TV.
Another Iranian official, Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, told Iran's Fars news agency that Shirvani was running smuggling operations along the eastern Iranian border and that the kidnapping was over a business dispute. Iran considers Jundollah a terrorist organization
Jundollah, which describes itself as a "resistance" group but shares the extremist ideology of Osama binb Laden, has responded to Iran.
It claims that 38-year-old Shirvani worked at a "secret facility" and had precious information about Iran's nuclear program that he would be forced to disclose.
"The responsible ones know well what important information Mr. Shirvani has, specifically about leading nuclear experts such as Khanzareh Tehrani," the bulletin says. "And publishing these confessions will have a heavy price for the regime."
-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photo: Jundollah fighters, from the group's website. Credit: Junbish.blogspot.com
Video: Report about the kidnapping of a man purported to be an Iranian nuclear scientist on Al Jazeera International. Credit: YouTube