‘Unintentionally’ shot down Ukrainian jetliner: Iran
Published: 11:31 AM, 11 January 2020 Updated: 01:34 PM, 11 January 2020
Iran announced on Saturday that its military unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible.
The plane was shot down early Wednesday; hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. No one was wounded in the attack on the bases.
A military statement carried by state media said that the plane was mistaken for a hostile target after it turned toward a sensitive military center of the Revolutionary Guard. The military was at its highest level of readiness, it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such mistakes in the future.
It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.
Iran’s acknowledgment of responsibility for the crash was likely to inflame public sentiment against authorities after Iranians had rallied around their leaders in the wake of Soleimani’s killing. The general was seen as a national icon, and hundreds of thousands of Iranians had turned out for funeral processions across the country.
But the vast majority of the plane victims were Iranians or Iranian-Canadians, and the crash came just weeks after authorities quashed nationwide protests ignited by a hike in gasoline prices.
The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran shortly after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Iran had denied for several days that a missile caused the crash. But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believed Iran shot down the aircraft with a surface-to-air missile, a conclusion supported by videos of the incident.
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 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The Canadian government had earlier lowered the nation’s death toll from 63.
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