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The Shadow War: Someone is killing Iran’s nuclear scientists. But a computer worm may be the scarier threat.
December 14, 2010
The covert operations that target Iran’s nuclear program suddenly came to light with explosive violence and stunning implications for the future of warfare on Nov. 29.
On that Monday morning, dawn had just broken over a bustling Tehran so deeply shrouded in smog that many commuters wore face masks to protect against the fumes and dust in the air. On Artesh Street, among rows of new and half-finished apartment blocks, the nuclear physicist Majid Shahriari was working his way through rush-hour traffic with his wife and bodyguard in his Peugeot sedan. A motorcycle pulled up beside the scientist’s car. Nothing extraordinary about that. But then the man on the bike stuck something to the outside of the door and sped away. When the magnetically attached bomb went off, its focused explosion killed Shahriari instantly. It wounded the others in the car but spared their lives. A clean hit.
Only a few minutes later and a few miles away, in a leafy neighborhood in the foothills of the Alborz Mountains, again a motorcycle pulled alongside the car of another scientist, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani. A longtime member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Abbasi Davani was named specifically in a United Nations sanctions resolution as “involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.” Sensing what was about to happen, he stopped the car, jumped out, and managed to pull his wife to safety before the bomb went off.
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