The Telegraph reports on the killing of the head of Iran’s cyber warfare program.
Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead in a wooded area near the town of Karaj, north-west of the capital, Tehran. 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 external intelligence agency, the Mossad, of carrying out these assassinations.
Ahmadi was last seen leaving his home for work on Saturday. He was later found with two bullets in the heart, according to Alborz, a website linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. “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.
The commander of the local police said that two people on a motorbike had been involved in the assassination.
The Facebook page of the officers of the Cyber War Headquarters confirmed that Ahmadi had been one of their commander and posted messages of condolence. But Alborz users warned that the openly accessible book of condolence could harm Iran’s national security.
Subsequently, a statement from the Imam Hassan Mojtaba division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps said that Ahmadi’s death was being investigated. It warned against speculating “prematurely about the identity of those responsible for the killing”.
The death of Ahmadi, a leading specialist in cyber defences, could be an extension of this campaign of subterfuge. Iran has been accused of carrying out a number of cyber attacks detected in the West. Shashank Joshi, an expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), said this was seen as a lesser threat than the nuclear programme. “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,” he said.
While we’ll probably never know for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised (or upset) if the Mossad was behind the killing of Ahmadi and the nuclear scientists. Iranians who perform tasks that endanger Israel’s security or existence should have realized by now that they cannot expect to live long and happy lives, and should seek other forms of employment.
But I’m intrigued by the warning against speculating “prematurely” about who was responsible for the killing. That hasn’t stopped the Iranian regime before.
Update: Potkin Azarmehr disputes the Telegraph’s report.