Foreign forces accused of murdering Iran cyber chief
The head of Iran's cyber warfare programme has been shot dead, provoking further accusations that outside powers are carrying out targeted assassinations of key figures in the country's security apparatus.
Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead in woods near the town of Karaj.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists and the head of the country's ballistic missile programme have been killed since 2007. The regime has accused Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, of carrying out these killings.
Mr Ahmadi was last seen leaving his home on Saturday. He was later found with two bullets in the heart, according to Alborz, a website linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The commander of the local police said that two people on a motorcycle had been involved in the killing. The Facebook page of the officers of the Cyber War Headquarters posted messages of condolence. But Alborz users warned that the openly accessible book of condolence could harm Iran's national security.
"Stop giving more information about him. The counter-revolutionaries will take advantage of his murder," said one post. "It sounds like a hit job for a security officer of this importance".
A statement from the Imam Hassan Mojtaba division of the Revolutionary Guard said that Mr Ahmadi's death was being investigated. It warned against speculating "prematurely about the identity of those responsible".
Western officials said the information was still being assessed, but previous deaths have been viewed as blows to Iran's security forces.
The tighter measures needed to protect leading commanders and nuclear scientists have instilled a culture of fear in some of the most sensitive parts of the security establishment.
The last victim of a known assassination was Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemist who worked in the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. He died when an explosive device blew up on his car last year.
The death of Mr Ahmadi could be an extension of this campaign of subterfuge. Iran has been accused of carrying out a number of cyber attacks.
Shashank Joshi, an expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said: "Iran's cyber attacks on Israel and elsewhere in the region are a rising threat and a growing threat, but it hasn't yet been seen as a major and sustained onslaught, so it would be pretty novel and significant to take this step in the field of cyber warfare at this time."
The Revolutionary Guard has also been accused of helping Syria's regime to hack Western targets through a body known as the Syrian Electronic Army.
The killing of Mr Ahmadi coincides with a new effort by Hassan Rouhani, Iran's newly elected president. He has voiced the hope that Iran's confrontation with the West over its nuclear ambitions can be settled within months. (© Daily Telegraph, London)