The commander of Iran’s cyber defense program was found dead in some woods close to the town of Karaj, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Tehran, in an apparent murder, the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
Mojtaba Ahmadi, who headed Iran’s Cyber War Headquarters, was the fifth casualty in a series of killings since 2007 of Iranian officials associated with the country’s defense programs, including its nuclear program.
Ahmadi was last seen on Saturday, when he was headed to work, and his body was later found with two bullets to his chest, the Telegraph reported, citing Alborz, a website linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, an influential security, political and economic agency in Iran that enjoys the support of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“I could see two bullet wounds on his body and the extent of his injuries indicated that he had been assassinated from a close range with a pistol,” an eyewitness told the website, according to the Telegraph.
However, IRGC, which confirmed that it has launched an investigation into the death of an official in a “horrific incident,” involving an “attacker,” dismissed reports that Ahmadi was assassinated while warning against speculating “prematurely about the identity of those responsible for the killing.”
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The report coincides with the recent process of diplomatic detente led by Iran’s newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani to re-establish ties with the U.S. and its Western allies, and after Rouhani’s historic visit to New York during which he called for a nuclear deal with the West in three to six months.
In January 2012, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, the deputy director of a uranium enrichment plant close to the city of Natanz, was killed when a motorcyclist hurled a magnetized bomb at his car.
In January 2010, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a 50-year-old physics professor at Tehran University, whose role in the nation's nuclear weapons program remains unclear, was killed when a bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded outside his house as he was leaving for work. In May 2012, Iran executed Majid Jamali Fashi, who was alleged to be an undercover agent of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, and was convicted of killing Mohammadi.