Iran says it ‘unintentionally’ shot down Ukrainian jetliner (Updates)

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.”

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