Iran admits it shot down Ukraine passenger jet by accident

Authorities in Tehran blame human error and US adventurism for tragedy which killed 176

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
,Richard Hall
Saturday 11 January 2020 00:18
Comments
Iranian general Amir Ali Hajizadeh accepts blame for downing of plane

Iran has admitted it shot down the Ukraine passenger jet, killing around 180 people, in an incident it said was unintentional and the result of human error.

Having initially insisted it had nothing to do with the demise of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752, whose downing it blamed on mechanical problems, officials in Tehran have now admitted the plane had been shot down after passing close to a sensitive military site.

Yet, while conceding that it was responsible for Wednesday’s downing of the jet, which happened shortly after Iran responded to the targetted killing of Qassem Soleimani by launching ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq used by US forces, officials in Tehran also sought to put the blame on Washington’s “adventurism”.

“A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Iran’s foreign minster Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote on Twitter.

“Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division, said his unit accepts "full responsibility" for the shootdown. In an address broadcast by state TV, he said that when he learned about the downing of the plane, "I wished I was dead."

He said Guard forces ringing the capital had beefed up their air defences and were at the "highest level of readiness," fearing that the US would retaliate. He said an officer made the "bad decision" to open fire on the plane after mistaking it for a cruise missile.

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani said his country "deeply regrets this disastrous mistake."

"My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences," he said, while promising an investigation to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.

The admission by Iran came after leaders of various Western nations, perhaps most powerfully Justin Trudeau of Canada, whose nation lost around 60 citizens, pointed the finger of blame at Iran.

“We have intelligence from multiple sources...the intelligence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” he said on Thursday.

“This may well have been unintentional.”

Following Iran's admission, Mr Trudeau said his government expects “full cooperation from Iranian authorities” in investigating the incident.

Precisely what impact the admission from Iran will make to a situation already beset by distrust and suspicion, remains to be seen.

Iran's ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, issued an apology on Saturday for his initial statements denying Tehran's responsibility for the incident. Mr Baeidinejad had said that Iran was "confident from our side that there has been no missile launched in that area at that time".

Following Iran's admission he tweeted: "In my statement yesterday to the UK media, I conveyed the official findings of responsible authorities in my country that missile could not be fired and hit the Ukrainian plane at that period of time. I apologise and regret for conveying such wrong findings."

It comes as Donald Trump on Friday doubled down on his insistence that the killing of Soleimani – the incident that presaged the downing of the jet – had been necessary.

As Democrats and other critics questioned claims from the Trump administration that Soleimani was plotting “imminent” attacks on US interests, he told Fox News that four US embassies had been at risk, including the one in Baghdad.

It was in Baghdad that the 62-year-old Iranian military leader, was assassinated last week by a US airstrike, carried out by a Reaper drone.

Iran TV footage allegedly shows black boxes from Ukrainian plane that crashed near Tehran

Iran said the passenger plane, en route to Ukraine’s capital Kiev and carrying 167 passengers and 9 members of crew, including 82 Iranians, at least 57 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians and 4 Britons, had been struck “unintentionally“ by its nation’s military.

A statement from the military, and carried by state media, said the plane was mistaken for a ”hostile target“ after it turned towards a ”sensitive military centre“ 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 a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said. It apologised for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.

It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.

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.

”This is the right step for the Iranian government to admit responsibility, and it gives people a step towards closure with this admission,“ said Payman Parseyan, a prominent Iranian-Canadian in western Canada who lost a number of friends in the crash.

“I think the investigation would have disclosed it whether they admitted it or not. This will give them an opportunity to save face.”

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in