The Envoy
  • The United States on Wednesday forcefully condemned a car bomb attack that killed an Iranian nuclear expert in Tehran--while just as firmly repudiating any suggestion that U.S. operatives might have taken part in the assassination.

    "I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told journalists at the State Department Wednesday ahead of a meeting with her Qatari counterpart.

    "The United States strongly condemns this act of violence and categorically denies any involvement in the killing," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a press statement.

    Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, 32, was killed in a blast from a magnetic bomb, that two men on a motorcycle attached to his Peugot 405 in north Tehran during Wednesday morning rush hour, the BBC's Frank Gardner reported.

    Iran's Fars News Agency identified Ahmadi-Roshan as a chemical engineer and university lecturer. He had also served as deputy director and assistant to the head of procurement at Iran's Natanz uranium-enrichment facility, the Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink reported.

    "Whoever was targeting [Ahmadi-Roshan] clearly knew his route, his car and his timings," the BBC's Gardner noted. "The small, professionally made device was designed to kill its victim but cause only limited damage to the surroundings."

    Site of car bomb blast that killed Iran nuclear scientist Jan. 12 2012. (Mehr News Agency)

    No one has taken responsibility for the blast, but Iranian leaders blamed Israel's intelligence service the Mossad for the assassination.

    Iran Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi "blamed the attack on 'Zionists' and 'those who claim they are against terrorism,' " Erdbrink wrote, citing the Fars News Agency.

    Ahmadi-Roshan was the fourth suspected Iranian scientist to be killed over the past two years in  a seemingly  sophisticated assassination program targeting Iran's nuclear scientists. Past attacks also commonly targeted nuclear researchers as they were driving to work in Tehran.

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  • U.S. ship rescues Iranian mariners–again

    An Iranian mariner greets a US Coast Guardsmen Jan 10, 2012. (Centcom/Defense Department)

    American sailors have come to the rescue of distressed Iranian mariners for the second time in less than a week, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

    The United States Coast Guard cutter Monomoy "picked up six Iranian mariners after their vessel broke down" in the Persian Gulf Tuesday, the BBC reported.

    At about 3 a.m. local time, the Coast Guard vessel "was hailed by flares and flashlights from the Iranian cargo dhow, Ya-Hussayn," the U.S. Navy Central Command/Fifth Fleet public affairs report said. The Iranian mariners asked for assistance from the Monomoy because the cargo dhow's engine room was flooding.

    "Monomoy immediately launched their small boat and approached the Ya-Hussayn," the Pentagon report said. "Two persons were rescued from the vessel, and four from a life raft tied off to the dhow's stern."

    The six Iranian mariners were taken aboard the Coast Guard ship and given water, blankets and halal meals, the Pentagon said. One Iranian mariner received medical treatment for minor burns. The Coast Guard then turned the six mariners over to an Iranian Coast Guard vessel at approximately 4:30 p.m. local time, the Pentagon said.

    The Captain of the Iranian Coast Guard vessel, the Naji 7, speaking through a translator, thanked the Monomoy captain and crew "for assisting and taking care of the Iranian sailors," the Pentagon said.

    The latest American rescue comes just five days after a U.S. Navy ship belonging to U.S.S. John C. Stennis aircraft carrier strike group freed 13 Iranian fishermen from Somali pirates in the Arabian sea. The American sailors gave clothes, food and water to the freed Iranian fishermen, who had been held hostage by their Somali captors for six weeks.

    "It is like you were sent by God," one of the freed Iranian fisherman, Fazel ur Rehman, told the American sailors, the New York Times' C.J. Chivers reported.

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  • Ex-GI charged with trying to aid Somalia’s Shabab

    Craig Baxam's 2005 MD yearbook photo. (Baltimore Sun)A former U.S. Army veteran who had done earlier tours in Iraq and South Korea faced charges Monday that he had tried to enlist with Somalia's al-Shabab terrorist group. Craig Benedict Baxam, a 24-year-old Army vet trained in intelligence and cryptology, allegedly flew to Africa to join up with al-Shabab and provide the group with material support, according to the charges filed against him in a Greenbelt, Md., courtroom.

    Baxam had been "surfing the Internet from his Army base in South Korea last summer when he came across an Islamic religious website," the Baltimore Sun's Matthew Hay Brown reported Tuesday. Baxam--who comes from Laurel, Md.--returned to his home state after he'd secretly converted to Islam at the end of his deployment in South Korea. At that point, Brown writes, he "began to make plans to live out his life in a land governed by Sharia law. He would never make it."

    Late last month, Baxam cashed in his $3500 Army retirement savings and bought a plane ticket to Kenya. Soon after his arrival, he was pulled off a bus near Mombasa after a seat-mate had inquired about his plans. Kenyan police turned over Baxam to the FBI office in Nairobi, and he "was arrested upon his return to Maryland last week," Brown wrote.

    "In an affidavit filed earlier Monday, FBI Special Agent John B. Phillips III said Baxam considered it his duty to undertake his hijra, or migration to a Muslim land," Brown wrote. "Phillips said Baxam was carrying between $600 and $700 when he was pulled off a bus and arrested outside Mombasa, Kenya. He said Baxam planned to offer the money to al-Shabaab, to join the group and to take up arms to defend it from the United States, if necessary."

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