Iran admits it shot down Ukraine jet by mistake, killing 176

Iran admits it shot down Ukraine jet by mistake, killing 176

Iran now admits it "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet that went down near Tehran airport on Wednesday, and blames "human error", the Associated Press reports.

The plane crash, which killed 176 people, happened soon after Iranian missile strikes targeted Iraqi bases housing US-led coalition personnel -- an offensive launched in retaliation for the killing of Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport on Jan. 3, 2020.

Iran denied for days that the aircraft had been shot down, but the US and Canada said they believed otherwise, citing intelligence. A video doing the rounds on social media appeared to show the precise moment of impact.

A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a hostile target after it turned toward a sensitive military center of the Revolutionary Guards. The military was at its highest level of readiness, it said, amid the heightened tensions with the US

In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit, the statement said. It apologised for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such mistakes in the future.

It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.

"Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake," Iranian president Hassan Rouhani tweeted.

"My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences," Rouhani said.

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 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.