Covert War Against Iran's Nuclear Aims Takes Chilling Turn

"Tehran's streets at the height of the morning rush hour resemble a vast, sprawling car park. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, much of it stationary, the acrid steam of a thousand exhausts hanging in the cold winter air. If you wanted to kill someone, this would be the moment to do it: when they are stuck in their cars – sitting targets.

At 7.40am last Monday, in north Tehran's Aghdasieh district, a motorcycle threaded its way through the long lines of cars on Artesh Boulevard. It edged up to a silver Peugeot 405, hesitating alongside for moment, before moving off into the maze of vehicles. A few seconds later there was a bang from the side of the Peugeot, as a small bomb stuck on to the window detonated, killing one of the men inside. The driver and a woman passenger were wounded.

At the same time, a few kilometres to the west, an identical attack was under way. A motorcycle came up beside another Peugeot and then moved on, but this time a man immediately jumped out of the car, ran around to let a woman out on the other side, and both of them managed to scramble a couple of metres from the car before the bomb went off. They were bloodied, but survived.

The dead man was Majid Shahriari, a senior Iranian nuclear scientist. The head of Iran's nuclear programme, Ali Akbar Salehi, who attended his funeral, said Shahriari had been ""in charge of one of the great projects"" at Iran's atomic energy agency – a project he did not describe any further.

The wounded man, Fereydoun Abbasi, was a 52-year-old nuclear scientist working for Iran's defence ministry, one of ""Iran's few experts on fissile isotopes and the ministry's laser expert"". He is also named in a UN security council sanctions resolution as working on ""banned nuclear activities"" with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist suspected by inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency of running Iran's secret nuclear weapons programme. The wives of both scientists were wou