Iran supreme leader says U.S., Israel spy agencies behind killing
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
REPORTING FROM BEIRUT AND TEHRAN -- Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused the CIA and the Israeli spy agency Mossad of orchestrating the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran earlier this week and vowed to punish those responsible for the slaying, Iranian media reports said.
"This was planned and supported by the CIA and Mossad services and this indicates that the global arrogance, led by America and Zionism, has reached a deadlock against the determined, pious and advancing nation of the Islamic Iran," Khamenei was quoted as saying in a statement on his website (link in Farsi), according to Iran's semi-official news outlet Fars News Agency on Thursday night.
"We will continue this path with power and strong will. ... And of course, we will never disregard punishment for the individuals who committed this crime and the elements behind its scene."
The remarks of the supreme leader, who has the last say on all key matters in the Islamic Republic, came a day before thousands of mourners flocked to the Tehran funeral of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan on Friday. The university professor and deputy director at Iran's main uranium enrichment facility was killed in a bomb blast in a northern Tehran neighborhood on Wednesday morning.
The bombing was the fifth attack against Iranian scientists in recent years that Iran believes are part of a covert western campaign to halt its nuclear ambitions. The U.S. and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon while Tehran says its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
After attending Friday prayer services inside the compound of Tehran university, mourners marched to nearby Enghelab square, denouncing the U.S., Israel and Britain and shouting that nuclear energy is a national right.
"I kill, I kill those who have killed my brother," they chanted as two cars passed, which had large wreaths of white-colored flowers with black ribbons stuck to their hoods. "Nuclear energy is our inalienable right. Death to USA and death to Israel and death to Britain."
One black-turbaned Islamic cleric amid the rallying crowd said, "We will not budge from our path of achieving peaceful nuclear energy."
Security and military officers filled the front rows at the funeral along with the father of the slain scientist, a thin man with graying hair dressed in a brown suit.
On the sidelines, a team of people clad in black riding a truck with mounted loudspeakers distributed images of four Iranian nuclear scientists killed during the last two years to funeral-goers, as well as a poster depicting President Obama with a Star of David on his forehead. "Terrorist" was written on the photo in red.
Ahmadi Roshan was killed when a motorcyclist attached a magnetic bomb to his car during rush-hour morning traffic. His driver later died of injuries sustained in the attack.
The killing, which left debris and car parts scattered in the streets and even in nearby trees, came amid stepped up tension between Iran and the West over its contested nuclear program. This week, Iran announced that it had begun to enrich uranium to 20% purity at a new underground bunker. The decision was condemned by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who said it put Iran "a significant step closer" to gaining the ability to produce weapons-grade fuel.
Iran has threatened to respond to increasing western sanctions by closing the strategic Hormuz strait through which 20% of the world's crude oil is shipped. The U.S. has said it will act in the case of an Iranian blockade of Hormuz. On Friday, Russia warned the U.S. that efforts to increase sanctions on Iran would be seen as an attempt at "regime change," according to media reports. Iran has also sentenced a American citizen of Iranian origin to death, claiming he was a spy.
Iran state radio reported Friday that students from all universities will gather in front of Tehran's Amirkabir University in a rally observers say will be aimed at showing support for nuclear energy and telling the world that the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists will not discourage the Islamic Republic from continuing on its nuclear path.
The Fars News Agency also said Friday that that dozens of Iranian students across the country have signed an open letter to the head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization to "show their readiness to cooperate with the organization.
[For the record, 11:45 a.m. Jan. 13: A previous version of this post said a statement on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's website was written in Arabic. The statement is in Farsi.]
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran
Photo: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to supporters in Tehran earler this month. Credit: EPA