Iran announced 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 U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. 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 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.
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 U.S. and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believed Iran shot down the aircraft.
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 lower the nation’s death toll from 63.
Foreign governments have condemned Iran’s action, with Ukraine demanding compensation and a United States official calling the downing “reckless”.
The United Kingdom said Tehran’s admission was an important first step and urged a de-escalation in tensions.
Supreme leader Khamenei, until now silent about the crash, said information should be made public, while top officials and the military issued apologies.
What caused a Ukranian plane to crash in Tehran?
But the state television suggested revealing the truth might be used by the “enemies of Iran”, usually a reference to the US and Israel.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked over the phone about the Ukrainian plane crash after it was revealed that Iran mistakenly downed the airplane.
“Iran welcomes any international cooperation within the framework of international law to clarify this incident and will provide all consular facilities for this purpose. And we are ready for the foreign ministers of Iran and Canada to continue their talks” Rouhani said in a phone call with Trudeau, as quoted by his press office.
Protests in Tehran after Iran’s admission
Crowds of students in central Tehran protested after the government’s response to the downing of the Ukrainian airliner, calling for those responsible to be held accountable.
Some of the protesters demanded that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei step down.
“Commander-in-chief [Khamenei] resign, resign,” videos posted on Twitter showed hundreds of people chanting in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir university.
Speaking from Tehran, Al Jazeera Dorsa Jibbari said: “There’s a lot of anger. Iranians are demanding justice and accountability. Many people, including families of the victims, do not understand why their government would have lied to them for this long.”
Iran jet admission ‘important first step’: UK Prime Minister
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called Iran’s admission an “important first step”.
“We will do everything we can to support the families of the four British victims and ensure they get the answers and the closure they deserve,” he said in a statement issued by his Downing Street office.
Johnson added that the UK would work closely with Canada, Ukraine and other international partners to ensure “a comprehensive, transparent and independent international investigation and repatriation of those who died.”
“This tragic accident only reinforces the importance of de-escalating tensions in the region,” he said.
“It is vital that all leaders now pursue a diplomatic way forward.”
US official calls Iran jet downing ‘reckless’
Iran’s downing of the plane was a “terrible tragedy,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters News Agency.
“Ultimately, Iran made an awful mistake,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Iran’s reckless actions have again had devastating consequences.”
Reactions, Updates as of Saturday, January 11:
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) January 11, 2020
I know folks prefer clear answers to things but politics is messy. And Iran is no exception.
People can be frustrated with their government AND show unity in the face of what they see as a foreign threat. They can protest their government and support it depending on the issue.
— Ariane Tabatabai (@ArianeTabatabai) January 12, 2020
THEN REPEAL THE TRAVEL BAN.
You’re such a terrible human being & your pandering to the Iranian people w/out policy is a JOKE. https://t.co/cvkTdXVUdX
— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani ? (@AnnaForFlorida) January 11, 2020
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) January 11, 2020
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) January 11, 2020
#British ambassador to #Tehran has been detained for organizing suspicious movements and protests in front of Amir Kabir University but released after hours and will be summoned by foreign ministry tomorrow morning pic.twitter.com/lWfPasQsIH
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) January 11, 2020
FYI: local sources tell me Sharif has never been a particularly political university with protests etc, so to see demonstrations here is significant. https://t.co/dHG3lh5Uq3
— Nilo Tabrizy (@ntabrizy) January 11, 2020
America's stood with people of #Iran in their struggle for freedom since 1950s when it deposed an elected government and imposed a ruthless Shah who let US corporations steal people's oil. US has no interst in #freedom anywhere in the world just in grabbing other people's assets. https://t.co/0JG4AzrYrv
— Richard Woolley (@beingrichard) January 11, 2020
تسلیت ? pic.twitter.com/il6fAZQLCv
— Mohsen Chavoshi (@chavoshi1) January 11, 2020
The voice of the Iranian people is clear. They are fed up with the regime’s lies, corruption, ineptitude, and brutality of the IRGC under @khamenei_ir's kleptocracy. We stand with the Iranian people who deserve a better future. pic.twitter.com/tBOjv9XsIG
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 11, 2020
My heartfelt condolences & love to the families of victims of plane “crash” in Iran. One of the great tragedies of war are unintended consequences & so-called "collateral damage." Once hostilities begin things quickly get out of control & no one knows where it may end #NoIranWar
— Tulsi Gabbard ? (@TulsiGabbard) January 11, 2020
Per CNN: The operator identified the plane as a cruise missile but couldn’t contact the central command to confirm it. He had 10 seconds to make a decision.
I wonder if Trump’s tweet of striking 52 cultural sites crossed the operator’s mind in those 10 tragic second. #PS752
— Mo (@MoMarz1) January 11, 2020
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) January 11, 2020
Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people.
Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake. #PS752
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 11, 2020
A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:
Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster
Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 11, 2020
Commercial flights should have been grounded – surprised that the airline even decided to take off, itself, after the strikes a few hours earlier. Imagine they weren’t grounded so as to not alert the US/others of the base attacks.
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) January 11, 2020
Iran says it unintentionally shot down Ukrainian airliner
Why is the word unintentionally in quotes in this AP headline?
It was clearly a hideous accident that would not have taken place if Trump hadn’t been pushing Iran to the brink of all out war. https://t.co/QRuOsC7Y9R
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) January 11, 2020
Trump created the conditions for such a deadly error to occur by committing an illegal act of war against Iran, leading to an unnecessary escalation in hostilities. Acknowledging this doesn’t mean you absolve Iran of responsibility for the error. This isn’t hard to grasp
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) January 11, 2020