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Iran admits it shot down Ukrainian jetliner 'by mistake'

AP/Tehran, Iran
Filed on January 11, 2020 | Last updated on January 11, 2020 at 08.28 am
by mistake, admit, Iran, 176, Boeing 737, Tehran, unintentionally, shot down, Ukrainian jetliner,

(Reuters)

An officer mistook the plane for a cruise missile.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Saturday acknowledged that it accidentally 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.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the 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 defenses 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.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a statement saying the crash investigation should continue and the "perpetrators" should be brought to justice. He said Iran should compensate victims' families, and he requested "official apologies through diplomatic channels."

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.

The US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believed Iran shot down the aircraft with a surface-to-air missile, a conclusion supported by videos verified by The Associated Press.

The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The Canadian government had earlier lowered the nation's death toll from 63.

 



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