Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) acknowledged on Saturday it “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.
The Iranian military released a statement on Saturday saying that the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard at a time when Iran’s military forces were at their “highest level of readiness.” He noted that a request for a no-fly zone had been made but was rejected.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said, apologizing for the disaster and saying that the country would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.
This admission of guilt was reinforced by a statement by President Hasan Rouhani.
The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.
My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences. https://t.co/4dkePxupzm
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 11, 2020
In a tweet admitting the airliner was shot down. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed it on “human error…caused by U.S. adventurism.”
A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:
Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster
Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 11, 2020
The airliner crashed shortly after Iran launched missiles at military bases housing U.S. and allied forces in Iraq. The officials believe the firing of missiles at the civilian airliner was accidental, coming after Iran’s air-defense systems were activated in the wake of the Iranian attack.
Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the IRGC’s aerospace commander, held a press conference on Saturday in which he admitted the anti-air missile operator had mistaken the Boeing 737 for a U.S. cruise missile responding to Iranian ballistic missile attacks, and only had ten seconds to decide whether or not to open fire. He further explained that the operator’s communications had jammed. The general stated that the top military commanders were unaware of the Iranian military’s role in the incident and therefore denied that the airliner had been shot down.
Prayer vigils held in the capital Tehran for the approximately 130 Iranian victims transformed into protest rallies with shouts of “Death to liars.”
After the Iranian admission on Saturday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Iran take action.
“We expect Iran… to bring the guilty to the courts,” Zelensky wrote on Facebook, demanding also for the “payment of compensation.”
“We hope the inquiry will be pursued without deliberate delay and without obstruction,” Zelensky said, demanding “total access” to the investigation as well as “an official apology.”
The Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800, flying from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran to Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport crashed just minutes after taking off. All 176 people on board were reported dead, including 15 children and one infant. The victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, 4 Afghans, 3 Germans, and 3 British nationals.
On Thursday, a Pentagon official, a senior U.S. intelligence official, and an Iraqi intelligence official, none of whom were authorized to speak publicly about the incident, told Newsweek that the crash was the result of an attack by the Iranian military firing a Russian Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet. It is known that Russia delivered 29 of the missiles to Iran in 2007 as part of a weapons deal signed in December 2005.
CBS Evening News reported on Thursday that U.S. intelligence picked up signals of the radar being turned on and satellite-detected infrared blips of two missile launches.