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Iran admits ‘unintentionally’ shooting down plane

Iran has admitted “unintentionally” shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people on board.

An investigation found that “missiles fired due to human error”, President Hassan Rouhani said. He described the crash as an “unforgivable mistake”.

The military said the jet flew close to a sensitive site belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and was then mistaken for a hostile aircraft.

Iran previously rejected suggestions that it was responsible for the crash.

The downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, on Wednesday, came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing US forces in Iraq.

The strikes were a response to the killing of senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad on 3 January.

Iran initially denied reports that one of its missiles had brought down the plane near the capital, Tehran. But pressure quickly mounted after Western intelligence officials said evidence pointed to Iranian involvement.

Search and rescue teams comb the wreckage of a Boeing 737 that crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport
Image copyright EPA: The plane came down shortly after taking off from Tehran

The Ukrainian flight, which was en route to Kyiv, came down near Imam Khomeini Airport shortly after take-off. Victims included dozens of Iranians and Canadians, as well as nationals from Ukraine, the UK, Afghanistan and Germany.

What has Iran said?

On Saturday morning, an Iranian military statement read on state TV announced that it had struck flight PS752 with a missile by mistake.

The plane had flown near a “sensitive military centre” of the Revolutionary Guards, a force set up to defend the country’s Islamic system.

Because of heightened tensions with the US, Iran’s military “was at its highest level of readiness”, the statement said. “In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit,” it added.

Search and rescue teams comb the wreckage of a Boeing 737 that crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff on January 08, 2020
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES: Iran had previously denied it was a missile strike that downed the Ukrainian jet

The military apologised for downing the plane, saying it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future. It added that those responsible would be held accountable and prosecuted.

President Rouhani expressed his condolences. “[Iran] deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” he said on

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif apologised to the families of the victims but laid part of the blame on the US. “Human error at a time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to [this] disaster,” he said.

 

BBC.com

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