Human error has been blamed for the downing of the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737 that killed all 176 onboard.
Iran state TV, citing the military, says the country ‘unintentionally’ shot down a Ukrainian jetliner because of human error.
All 176 people aboard the Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737 were
killed when it crashed in a field shortly after takeoff near Tehran on Wednesday morning.
The crash occurred hours after Iran fired missiles at American bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of a top Iranian general in a US air strike.
The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted the internal investigation findings were a “great tragedy” and an “unforgivable mistake”.
CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for an investigation into his armed forces after acknowledging that they accidentally shot down the Ukrainian flight.
Mr Khamenei expressed his deepest sympathies to the families and called on the armed forces to “pursue probable shortcomings and guilt in the painful incident.”
The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that it was a sad day and preliminary conclusions blamed human error caused by “US adventurism”.
“Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims and to other affected nations.”
According to CNN, the doomed aircraft came close to a sensitive Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military center “at an altitude and flight condition that resembled hostile targeting”.
Due to tense circumstances, the aircraft was “unintentionally hit, which unfortunately resulted in death of the many Iranian and foreign nationals”, the Iranian Armed Forces Headquarters the statement said.
The Armed Forces General Staff put out a statement on the Islamic Republic News Agency, and said the findings came following an immediate investigation due to “possible impact of military action on the incident.”
“The General Staff of the Armed Forces expresses condolences to the grieving families of foreign nations and apologised for the human error,” said the statement.
The military assured onlookers that it would look at its operational processes that allowed such an error but placed the blame on the US for a heightened state of security.
“Following the threats of the US President and the military commanders to target a large number of targets in the territory the Islamice Republic’s Armed Forces were at the highest level of readiness,” it said.
This caused more sensitivity in air defense units according to the military statements and the Ukrainian 737 was reportedly in close proximity to a sensitive military centre.
Footage emerged yesterday morning that was believed to be the moment the Ukrainian passenger plane was hit by the missile.
The footage verified by The New York Times showed a small explosion occurring when the missile hit the plane but the plane did not explode.
Despite this footage, Iran continued to stress that no missile had hit the Ukrainian passenger plane.
Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department continued to deny Iran’s involved and said that Western intelligence was wrong.
Mr Abedzadeh said that he was certain that the airliner which crashed outside Tehran was not hit by a missile.
“The thing that is clear to us and that we can say with certainty is that this plane was not hit by a missile,” Ali Abedzadeh told reporters, with Iranian government spokesman, Ali Rabiei, accusing the US and its allies of “lying and engaging in psychological warfare” in their speculation over the cause of the accident.
The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has told reporters that while the news was not good it at least brought the truth.
“But we insist on full admission of guilt. We expect from Iran assurances of readiness for a full and open investigation, bringing the perpetrators to justice, returning the bodies of the dead, payment of compensations, official apologies through diplomatic channels.”
Mr Zelensky said he hoped that the investigation would continue without delays and requested full access to establish justice.
Mr Abedzadeh’s statements came after the US, UK, Canadian and even Australian intelligence sources put the blame on Iran.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra that Australia had received similar intelligence to Canada and it did not suggest an intentional act.
“It’s absolutely critical that a full and transparent investigation is undertaken into this terrible event and that would include undertaking all efforts to ensure we get recovery of the black box recorder that can obviously inform that investigation,” he said.
However it is alleged that Iranian authorities were clearing debris from the crash site following an image from investigation website Bellingcat appeared online.
Bellingcat investigator Giancarlo Fiorella told Channel 4 News that the bulldozer images were able to be geolocated to the crash site.
“If this was a shoot-down event, you don’t want to disturb the crash site before a thorough investigation can be conducted and I’m not sure one had been conducted,” he said.
“The presence of heavy machinery at the site and the bulldozing is very distressing.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters yesterday that the tragedy had shocked the world.
“This may well have been unintentional,” he said.
“The news will undoubtedly come as a further shock to the families who are already grieving … (and) reinforces the need for a thorough investigation into this matter.”
Among the 176 people dead, 63 were Canadians, 79 Iranian and 11 were Ukrainian.
There was also 10 Swedes, seven Afghans, three Brits and three German nationals on board.
With AP wires.