Updated: January 11, 2020 7:47:23 pm
Days after 176 people were killed in a Boeing 737 crash on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran Saturday admitted to “unintentionally” shooting down the aircraft. In a statement released by its military, Iran blamed “human error” for the accident and said the plane was mistaken for “a hostile target.”
The Iranian military’s statement said the plane “took the flying posture and altitude of an enemy target” as it came close to a Revolutionary Guard base. It said that “under these circumstances, because of human error,” the plane “came under fire.” It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.
The jetliner, operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, crashed just after takeoff on Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US forces in Iraq. The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians.
Calling it a “disastrous mistake”, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed “deep regrets” and offered condolences. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the error was caused by “US adventurism.” “Our profound regrets, apologies, and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations,” he wrote in a tweet.
Ukraine demands investigation
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the country expects a full investigation, a full admission of guilt and compensation from Iran. “We expect from Iran assurances of their readiness for a full and open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, the return of the bodies of the dead, the payment of compensation, official apologies through diplomatic channels,” he said in a statement.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also demanded “accountability, transparency, and justice” for the families of the victims.
On Friday, The New York Times released a video that appeared to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near Tehran’s airport. A small explosion occurred when what appears to be a missile hit the plane above Parand, a city near the airport, but the plane did not explode, the video showed. The jet continued flying for several minutes and turned back toward the airport, NYT determined. The plane, which by then had stopped transmitting its signal, flew toward the airport ablaze before it exploded and crashed quickly.
Visual and sonic clues in the footage also matched flight path information and satellite imagery of the area near where the plane crashed. The satellite images were taken on Thursday and provided to NYT by Maxar Technologies, a space technology company.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Friday became the first American official to publicly confirm the disclosures. Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a full investigation “to be convinced beyond all doubt.”
Ukraine’s main intelligence agency, known as the SBU, said only that it had narrowed the cause of the crash to a missile strike or a terrorist act and that it could not confirm western intelligence that an Iranian missile system was likely to blame.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the western governments had not initially shared the evidence underpinning their assessments that Iran had brought down the Ukrainian jet. However, a spokeswoman later said US officials had handed over more information.
‘Vital to de-escalate tensions’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet in Iran reinforced the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Middle East.
“Iran’s admission that Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by mistake by its own armed forces is an important first step,” Johnson said in a statement.”We now need a comprehensive, transparent and independent international investigation and the repatriation of those who died. The UK will work closely with Canada, Ukraine and our other international partners affected by this accident to ensure this happens,” he said.
Four British nationals were among the 176 people killed in Wednesday’s crash.
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