Iran Says Its Military Shot Down Ukrainian Passenger Plane in Error

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia December 30, 2019. Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

Iran said on Saturday its military had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 aboard, saying air defences were fired in error while on high alert in the tense aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq.

Iran had previously vigorously denied bringing the plane down. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who until Saturday had kept silent about the crash, said information should be made public.

Wednesday’s crash heightened international pressure on Iran after months of friction with the United States and tit-for-tat attacks. A U.S. drone strike had killed a top Iranian military commander in Iraq on Jan. 3, prompting Tehran to fire at U.S. targets on Wednesday.

Canada, which had 57 citizens on board, and the United States had both said they believed an Iranian missile brought down the aircraft, although they said it was probably an error.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter, promising that those behind the incident would be prosecuted. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families.”

Experts said mounting international scrutiny would have made it all but impossible to hide signs of a missile strike in any investigation and Iran may have felt a U-turn was better than battling rising criticism abroad and growing grief and anger at home, as many victims were Iranians with dual nationality.

In Twitter messages, angry Iranians asked why the plane was allowed to take off with tensions in Iran so high. The plane came down when Tehran was on alert for U.S. reprisals in the hours after Iran launched rockets at U.S. troops in Iraqi bases.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards apologised to the nation and accepted full responsibility. Senior Guards commander Amirali Hajizadeh said he wished “I could die” when he heard the news about the incident, state media reported.

Responding to Iran’s announcement on Saturday, Ukraine demanded an official apology and compensation. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would work “to ensure a complete and thorough investigation” and wanted Iran’s full cooperation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that “human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism led to disaster”, citing an initial armed forces investigation into the crash of the Boeing 737-800.

TELL-TALE SIGNS

A military statement said the plane flew close to a sensitive military site of the elite Revolutionary Guards. At the time, planes had been spotted on radar near strategic sites leading to “further alertness” in air defences.

Ukraine has said the plane was in a normal flight corridor.

Experts said a probe would almost certainly have revealed tell-tale signs on the fuselage remains of a missile strike.

“There’s nothing you can do to cover it up or hide it,” said Anthony Brickhouse, an air safety expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigator. “Evidence is evidence.”

Former U.S. Federal Aviation Administration accident investigator, Mike Daniel, told Reuters the mounting evidence made it inevitable that Iran would “accept culpability”.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mobile phone footage posted and circulated by ordinary Iranians on Twitter after the crash had indicated the plane came down in flames and exploded as it struck the ground.

Aviation experts said Iran and the airline would have to explain why the plane was allowed to take off, as it is up to a country to close its airspace when there is a security risk, while many other airlines were already avoiding Iranian airspace.

PUBLIC GRIEF

Iran’s initial denials this week had described accusations that a missile was to blame as “psychological warfare”.

Grief-stricken Iranians complained on social media that Iran’s authorities had spent more time fending off criticism than sympathising with victims’ families.

“Why were any civilian airlines flying out of Tehran airport in those conditions?” Twitter user Shiva Balaghi wrote.

A U.S. official had said data showed the plane airborne for two minutes after departing Tehran when heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected. There was an explosion in the vicinity and heat data showed the plane on fire as it fell. U.S. military satellites detect infrared emissions from heat.

U.S. President Donald Trump said this week that “somebody could have made a mistake.”

Iran had said on Thursday it would download the information from voice and flight data recorders, known as black boxes, to determine what had happened, although it had said the process could take one to two months.

Tehran had said it could ask Russia, Canada, France or Ukraine for help in the investigation.

The disaster had echoes of an incident in 1988, when the U.S. warship USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner, killing 290 people. Washington said it was a tragic accident. Tehran said it was intentional.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh, Parisa Hafezi and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, Steve Holland in Washington and Allison Lampert; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Frances Kerry)

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victoria
Member

Sooo this was “human error” and the world is supposed to trust Iran LOL! They can’t be trusted because they’re cold blooded terrorists and now also they act like irresponsible children and made a “mistake” which caused this unnecessary tragedy. The leadership needs to be wiped out.

Mark Schlesinger
Member

“Sloppy”, eh?

Tom Bodine
Member

Allowing 7th century heathens to have 21st century weapons is not a good idea, got that Barry ?

General Confusion
Member

“United States troops at the Al-Asad air base in Iraq were aware that an Iranian attack was imminent, allowing them to take shelter two-and-a-half-hours before missiles struck on Wednesday” CNN exclusive

Yup, I predicted on IJR that this was the case, a few days ago – no casualties at all because they were warned ahead of time.

Screwtape
Member

Ooops! We f’d up! So….their military accidentally shot down a civilian, passenger aircraft. They also launched “tens” of missiles at a military base with NO casualties. (okay, they got at lot of that tech from the Russians and NK with funds from the Big Zero). Their religious-inspired military strength is *ahem* strong, their effectiveness is weak. Effectiveness count in conflict. Those fearing a conflict with Iran are chicken-littles. Also cowards and traitors. Let Iran cast yet another stone. We’ll bury them Kruschev-style, except we will actualy do it. As Bugs would say, “We’ll moider the bums!” who also happen to… Read more »

cmac
Guest
cmac

Yeah sure. If you believe this was an accident then I have some ocean front property in the middle of Kansas and a huge iron bridge to sell you.

Dave Hardesty
Member

“Senior Guards commander Amirali Hajizadeh said he wished “I could die” when he heard the news about the incident,”

Your wish can easily be granted. Just give us your exact location so our drone doesn’t get an innocent person.

Friend
Member

President Hassan Rouhani, That guilty party you mention, that would be those in command, probably including you. But instead, your government will likely blame and prosecute some hapless private who happened to be on duty. That is passing the responsibility instead of taking responsibility. When you use weapons, all who are killed or injured by those weapons are your responsibility, not just the ones you meant to shoot. No America is not at fault, America did not return fire that night. Your man was killed while on foreign soil trying to leave the country after leading an attack on a… Read more »

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