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Iran names alleged perpetrator of blast at Natanz nuclear site — report

An Iranian news website has named the suspect that authorities are claiming caused an explosion earlier this month targeting a centrifuge plant at the Natanz nuclear site.

The blast, which foreign media reports have attributed to Israel, damaged an advanced centrifuge development and assembly plant.

According to the Thursday report by “Didban Iran” (“Iran Watch”), the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have concluded that the instigator of the blast was Ershad Karimi, a contractor at the site who owns a company, MEHR, that supplies precision measuring equipment.

“Ershad Karimi, who was a contractor for many years and responsible for launching the uranium enrichment course at the Natanz nuclear plant in the central Isfahan province, is the person involved in the bombing,” the Persian-language report said, according to a translation by the Al-Masdar news site.

“Ershad Karimi detonated the centrifuge hall with his team, and caused great damage to the country’s nuclear industry as well as the prestige of the system,” the report said.

“Karimi was cleared by the Isfahan Intelligence Agency to work as a contractor at the Natanz nuclear plant,” it added.

Ayattolah Yousef Tabatabai Nejad, the leader of Friday prayers in Isfahan who represents the province in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, reportedly confirmed Karimi’s involvement in the blast.

On Wednesday, an Iranian lawmaker said the blast was caused by a “security breach.” Javad Karimi Qoddousi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, ruled out “a strike on the complex by an external object” as the cause of the blast, appearing to deny the possibility of a missile attack or airstrike.

“If it was from the outside, we should have seen shrapnel, but there are absolutely no remnants left on the site,” he said, according to Radio Farda.

Qoddousi did not elaborate on what he meant by a “security breach.” Radio Farda noted the Persian term he used can also be translated as an infiltration of security, suggesting the blast came from inside the building.

According to a New York Times report earlier this month, the blast was most likely the result of a bomb planted at the facility, potentially at a strategic gas line. The report did not rule out the possibility that a cyberattack was used to cause a malfunction that led to the explosion.

The July 2 Natanz explosion was one of a series of mysterious blasts at Iranian strategic sites in recent weeks, which have been largely attributed to either Washington, Jerusalem, or both.

Intelligence officials who assessed the damage to the Natanz centrifuge facility told The Times they believed it may have set back the Iranian nuclear program by as much as two years.

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry has said that the cause of the Natanz explosion was not yet known, but warned that the country would retaliate severely if it emerges that a foreign entity was involved.

Iran has also called for action against Israel following the damage to the Natanz facility. “This method Israel is using is dangerous, and it could spread to anywhere in the world,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, during a press conference on July 7.

Original: TOI Staff