The brains behind Iran’s missile program was found dead on Monday under mysterious circumstances, and his family has rejected the official account of his death, charging their relative was murdered by Revolutionary Guard agents.
According to the London-based newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat on Thursday, the deceased, Ali Mahmudi, was one of the chief engineers in the Iranian Defense Ministry's satellite and aeronautics industry.
Mahmudi was known as the "father of the Iranian missiles," said the paper.
On Monday night, Mahmudi was found semi-conscious in his office, a source in his department told Al Sharq Al Awsat. He was rushed to a military hospital but died before he could receive medical treatment.
The paper quoted one of his relatives, Amir Mahmudi, as saying he did not believe the official death report, which said that the scientist died of a heart attack.
The relative said that he had met with Mahmudi on the previous night, and that the latter had been in good health.
He added that the military intelligence agents for the aeronautics industry had not allowed an autopsy, and barred the family from seeing the body for a last visit.
Moreover, Amir Mahmudi said, the top engineer had been arrested and interrogated by intelligence agents upon his return from a visit abroad a month prior to his death. He did not say where the scientist had traveled.
He said that his relative was tortured by the security service “so as to extract a confession that he was spying for the US.”
According to the report, Mahmudi’s relatives and colleagues ruled out that he was killed by the Mossad or CIA, as was rumored following his death.
The scientist was released after President Mohammad Khatami and Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani intervened. The latter even succeeded in convincing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to present the scientist with a medal for being “a great man and a source of pride for Iran’s military.”
Other reports have said that Mahmudi was killed by an unexplained explosion at the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group research facility just south of Teheran, where technical tests were being carried out on an advance launching apparatus to be used for the Shihab-3 medium-range ballistic missile.
Israel has been closely watching Iranian progress in missile development. On Monday, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said in Turkey that the Shihab-3 was close to becoming operational.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Mahmudi’s death is bound to generate a lot of interest among intelligence officials in Israel and the West, who are likely trying to figure out just what impact it will have on the ambitious Iranian missile quest.
The Shihab-3 is believed to be a derivative of the North Korean No Dong-1, has a range of 1,300 km, and is capable of carrying a 750-1,000 kg warhead, according to the Federation of American Scientists, which monitors weapons development.
Mahmudi was also working on the Shihab-4, with a range of about 2,000 km, said the Israeli daily – Albawaba.com
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