ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iranian military admitted on Saturday that it had accidentally shot down the Ukrainian airliner that crashed shortly after taking off from an airport in Tehran on Wednesday morning, killing all 176 passengers in an incident caused by “unintentional human error.”
The reason, it explained, was that the country’s defenses were on “the highest level of readiness” in anticipation of a possible US retaliation to Tehran’s missile strikes the night before on American targets in Iraq.
The Ukrainian Boeing 737–800 was heading from the Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran to Kiev. Shortly after the incident, reports indicated that the aircraft may have been shot down by Iranian rockets from its missile defense system.
This occurred just hours after the Iranian aerospace force fired ballistic missiles on Iraqi bases that house American troops, in an operation dubbed “Martyr Soleimani,” widely publicized by Iranian media as Tehran’s “severe revenge” for the killing of General Qasim Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The airliner was “in close proximity to a sensitive military center of the IRGC and was at an altitude, and in the shape, of a hostile aircraft,” read a statement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, published on the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
“Under these conditions, due to unintentional human error, the mentioned airplane was targeted, which unfortunately led to a collective martyrdom of fellow citizens and foreigners,” the statement continued, adding that those responsible for the incident would be tried in a court of law.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted, “Human error at [a] time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” adding, “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”
Initially, Iranian officials said reports indicating that its military had shot down the aircraft were “illogical” and “psychological warfare.”
Among the casualties were a large number of dual-nationals, including dozens of Iranian-Canadians. A day after the incident, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a press conference that intelligence showed an Iranian surface-to-air missile had shot down the plane but added that it may have been unintentional.
Editing by John J. Catherine