After days of living in denial, Iran has come out to say its military targeted the plane, blames ‘human error’; crash occurred hours after Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq
The country announced, Saturday, that its military “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week outside Tehran, 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 US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad.
A statement by the Iranian military carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. 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.
The military also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would “immediately” face military justice.
“We assure you that by pursuing fundamental reforms in operational processes at the armed forces’ level we will make it impossible to repeat such errors,” the general staff added in a press release.
The US and Canada had accused the Iranian military of firing a missile which downed the aircraft, allegation which Iran had denied for several days. But then the US 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.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, however, said “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,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.