The prime ministers of Canada and the UK said that a Ukrainian jet that crashed Wednesday near Tehran was probably brought down by an Iranian missile and called for an international probe of the disaster.
“We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “This may well have been unintentional.”
More than a third of the 176 people aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which plunged from the sky about two minutes after a pre-dawn takeoff, were from Canada. The Boeing Co. 737-800 was on fire, according to witnesses on the ground and in other aircraft who were cited in a preliminary Iranian report on the crash.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a statement later Thursday saying there is evidence Flight 752 was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.
“We are working closely with Canada and our international partners and there now needs to be a full, transparent investigation,” Johnson said.
Whether accidental or intentional, a shoot-down would echo two other instances of surface-to-air missiles striking civilian jets. In 2014, pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine fired on and destroyed a Malaysian Air jetliner. In 1988, an Iranian airliner was felled by a US cruiser after being mistaken for a hostile aircraft following a skirmish with Iranian boats.
President Donald Trump, speaking to reporters in Washington on Thursday, said, “I have my suspicions” about why the plane went down but said he didn’t say what those suspicions are.
“It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood,” Trump said. “Somebody could have made a mistake.”
Two surface-to-air missile launches were detected by a US spy satellite from an Iranian battery near the airport minutes after the jet took off, followed by an explosion near the plane, said a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Russian-made SA-15 missile, also known as a Gauntlet or a Tor, are suspected of being involved. They are short-range weapons designed to attack planes, helicopters and other airborne targets.
The New York Times reported that it had obtained a video that appears to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near the Tehran airport. The video shows a small explosion occurring when a missile struck the jet, which didn’t explode, according to the Times.
State-run IRNA denied that a missile hit the plane, citing a statement from Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei.
“News of two missiles hitting the Ukrainian plane has circulated in media with much fanfare, in a calculated and well-known manner and as part of a psychological warfare,” the report said. “Future will show that these claims are empty of truth and no one will bear responsibility for this big lie.”
Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said “it’s not possible” for an Iranian rocket to have hit the plane.
“There’s a very defined relationship in Iran between military and civilian structures and it’s based on the regulations of the international civil aviation authority to which we comply, like all other countries,” he said in an interview on Iranian TV.
News Source: LiveMint