Iran Says Identified Man Behind Natanz Nuclear Site Sabotage

Identified as Reza Karimi, the suspect apparently fled Iran prior to the blast; State TV says efforts to capture and arrest him are underway

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An employee at the Natanz nuclear site last week.
An employee at the Natanz nuclear site last week.Credit: AFP

Iran announced on Saturday that they have identified the person responsible for the blast at its main Nantanz nuclear plant as Reza Karimi, the state television network IRIB reported.

"Reza Karimi, the perpetrator of this sabotage...has been identified," state TV said. It said he fled Iran before last Sunday’s blast that Iran has blamed on Israel.

"Necessary and legal steps for his arrest and return to the country are underway," the television report added. 

The report showed a passport-style photograph of a man it identified as Karimi. The report also aired what appeared to be an Interpol “red notice” seeking his arrest. The arrest notice was not immediately accessible on Interpol's public-facing database. Interpol, based in Lyon, France, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The supposed Interpol “red notice” listed his travel history as including Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Ethiopia, Qatar, Turkey, Uganda, Romania and another country that was illegible in the broadcast.

The report also showed centrifuges in a hall, as well as what appeared to be caution tape up at the Natanz facility. It did not elaborate as to how Karimi would have gained access to one of the most secure facilities in the Islamic Republic.

The attack Sunday was suspected by Iran to have been carried out by Israel, amid heightened tensions between the two nations.

Iran has begun enriching a small amount of uranium up to 60 percent purity — its highest level ever — in response amid talks in Vienna aimed at saving its tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran previously had said it could use uranium enriched up to 60% for nuclear-powered ships. However, the Islamic Republic currently has no such ships in its navy.

The attack on Iran's key Natanz nuclear site Sunday was caused by an explosive device that was smuggled into the plant and detonated remotely, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The attack at Natanz was initially described only as a blackout in its electrical grid — but later Iranian officials began calling it an attack.

Citing an unnamed intelligence official, the New York Times report said that the explosion damaged Natanz's primary and backup electrical systems. 

One Iranian official referred to “several thousand centrifuges damaged and destroyed” in a state TV interview. However, no other official has offered that figure and no images of the aftermath have been released.

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