The Ukrainian passenger plane crashed in Iran killing all 176 people on board on Wednesday (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Iran mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed on Wednesday near Tehran with 176 people on board, claimed multiple media reports quoting US and UK officials. Iran’s aviation authority has said it will not hand over flight recorders from the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed moments after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 passengers and crew onboard, either to the aircraft’s manufacturer or US aviation authorities. Ukraine earlier said it was examining whether a missile strike brought down the aircraft - but Iran has ruled this out. The crash came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing US forces in Iraq.
United States officials believe that the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was hit by a missile, according to CBS News. The report quoting US intelligence said a satellite detected infrared "blips" of two missile launches, followed by another blip of an explosion.
The current thinking is the plane, Ukraine International Flight 752, was mistakenly targeted, said the report. It also said that federal officials have been briefed on this intelligence. The report, qouting a source present in the briefing, said it appears missile components were found near the crash site.
"U.S. intelligence picked up signals of the radar being turned on and satellite detected infrared blips of two missile launches, probably SA-15s, followed shortly by another infrared blip of an explosion," the report said.
According to The Guardian, British officials also had seen intelligence that suggested that the plane was hit by an Iranian air defence missile.
Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday he had “suspicions” the plane might have been mistakenly shot down. “Someone could have made a mistake on the other side,” he said. “Some people say it was mechanical, I personally don’t think that’s even a question. I have a feeling that … something very terrible happened.”
The Pentagon had declined to comment.
According to The Guardian, suspicions that the aircraft may have accidentally been shot down had grown based on images circulating on social media showing what appeared to be missile debris that was purportedly photographed near the crash site. The timing of the disaster, a few hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at US forces stationed in Iraq in retaliation for its assassination of Gen Qasem Soleimani, has fuelled speculation that it might have somehow been linked to the hostilities.
Of the 176 people on board, 79 were Iranian, 63 were Canadian and 11 were Ukrainian (including nine crewmembers), along with 10 Swedish, seven Afghans, three Britons and three German nationals.