Iran has admitted to shooting down a Ukrainian 737 near Tehran this week, killing 176 passengers and crew.
According to a CNN report, the general staff of Iran armed forces admitted a Ukrainian plane that crashed on Wednesday was brought down due to human error. Iran targeted the passenger plane unintentionally, Iran’s Press TV reported.
Images shown yesterday of the crash site showed part of a missile amongst the debris.
The incident happened minutes after the Ukraine International Airlines 737 heading to Kiev had taken off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport and came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran over the assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimania.
Iran had earlier launched missile attacks on two bases in Iraq staffed by US personnel.
A statement run by Iranian state media Saturday said the plane was mistaken for a hostile target after it turned towards a sensitive Revolutionary Guard military center.
It said the military was at its highest level of readiness due to heightened tensions with the US.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in a(n) unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said, adding that Iran would upgrade its systems to prevent a similar accident.
Iran Foriegn Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the tragedy was the result of human error at a time of crisis “caused by US adventurism”.
“Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations,” he said.
Iran initially denied that the plane had been shot down and its decision to come clean came after Western leaders revealed intelligence that indicated a missile strike.
The push was spearheaded by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who announced Thursday (North American time) there was evidence the Boeing 737 was shot down by a ground-to-air missile.
Canada had 63 citizens among the 176 who died when the jet plummeted to the ground, apparently on fire, and exploded.
Trudeau said Canada had intelligence from multiple sources ” including our allies and our own intelligence”.
He would not detail the evidence but said it was enough to allow him to share the suggestion with the Canadian people.
“The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” Trudeau told a Press conference.
“This may well have been unintentional.
“This new information reinforces the need for a thorough investigation into this matter.
“Canada is working with its allies to ensure that a thorough and credible investigation is conducted to determine the causes of this fatal crash.
CBS News said sources had told it a satellite detected the infrared signature of two missile launches followed by a “blip” of an explosion.
Newsweek quoted US officials and an Iraqi source as saying the plane was hit by a Russian-made Tor missile.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also backed the ground-to-air missile scenario.
Iran has now invited Boeing and the US National Transportation Safety Board to join the investigation and the NTSB has confirmed it has designated a representative.