Iran’s president on Saturday apologized for the “unforgivable mistake” that led to the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board, in the tense aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
President Hassan Rouhani said his country “deeply regrets” the accident.
“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,” he said on Twitter.
“Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake.”
Wednesday’s crash heightened international pressure on Iran after months of friction with the United States and tit-for-tat military strikes. Washington killed an Iranian general last week in Iraq, prompting Teheran to fire at US targets.
The United States and Canada, which had 57 citizens on board, had blamed an Iranian action for bringing down the aircraft. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had told Iran that “the world is watching”.
On Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the armed force’s investigation showed the downing of the Boeing 737-800 was the result of “human error at the time of crisis caused by US adventurism (that) led to disaster”.
An Iranian military statement, announcing that a missile had struck the plane and expressing condolences to the victims, said the plane had flown close to a sensitive military site belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards.
It said responsible parties would be referred to a judicial department within the military and held accountably.
Mobile phone footage posted and circulated by ordinary Iranians on Twitter after the crash has indicated that it came down in a ball of flames.
Iran had said on Thursday it would download the information from voice and flight data recorders, known as black boxes, to determine what had happened, although it had said that the process could take one to two months.
Teheran said it could ask Russia, Canada, France or Ukraine for help in an effort that it said could take one or two years.
Many of the victims were Iranian with dual nationality.
Iran initially dismissed the accusations that a missile was to blame for the crash, calling such suggestions “psychological warfare”.
Grief-stricken Iranians and others have posted images related to the crash. One showed a child’s red shoe in the dirt. Another was a selfie of a mother and daughter in their seats, sent to a loved one just before takeoff.
“Why were any civilian airlines flying out of Tehran airport in those conditions?” a user named Shiva Balaghi wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine had been looking at various possible causes of the crash, including an attack by a Russian-made missile, a collision, an engine explosion or terrorism. – AP
What we know so far:
- Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed at 6.14 am on Tuesday just after leaving Tehran bound for Kiev
- It came down three hours after Iran launched missiles at US bases in Iraq
- Pictures of the wreckage showed telltale shrapnel marks indicating an explosion
- Iran initially blamed an engine malfunction and refused to hand over black box flight recorders
- Justin Trudeau and Boris Johnson said intelligence points to an Iranian surface-to-air missile
- On Saturday morning, Iran finally took responsibility for shooting the jetliner, blaming ‘human error’