Iran's cyberwarfare commander shot dead in possible assassination

Iranian Flag (Flickr)

The commander of Iran's cyberwarfare unit was reportedly shot dead this week, fueling speculation that he may have been targeted by assassins. As the Telegraph reports, Mojtaba Ahmadi was found dead yesterday near the town of Karaj with two bullet wounds in his chest. Ahmadi was the head of Iran's Cyber War Headquarters, and was last seen leaving his house on Saturday, according to a report from Alborz, a news website affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Local police told Alborz that two men on a motorbike are believed to be behind the attack, though officials say it's too soon to determine their identities or motives. "The matter is being investigated and the main reason of the event and the motive of the attacker have not been specified," the IRGC said in a statement published on the Sepah news site.

"The matter is being investigated."

Recent years have seen a spate of assassinations carried out against high-ranking Iranian officials and scientists. Since 2007, five nuclear scientists and the head of Iran's ballistic missile program have been killed. The most recent victim, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, worked in a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, and was killed by a car bomb in January 2012. The Iranian government has accused Israel's secret service, the Mossad, of orchestrating these attacks.

Iran has been accused of orchestrating several cyberattacks against US banksoil companies, and Navy computers. The country has also been targeted by cyberattacks, most notably in 2010, when the Stuxnet virus infiltrated its nuclear facilities and power plants. Stuxnet is believed to have been created by US, European, and Israeli intelligence as part of an operation known as "Olympic Games".

Reports of Ahmadi's death come at a sensitive time for newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who spoke by telephone with President Barack Obama last week in what is believed to be the first top-level conversation between the two countries since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Rouhani is widely seen as a more moderate leader than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his election has raised hopes for more constructive negotiations about Iran's nuclear program. Israel, however, remains wary of its regional adversary, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week describing Rouhani as a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

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