On Saturday, Iran’s military admitted its role in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed all 176 people on board, indicating that it was “unintentional” and blamed “human error” as the cause.
Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed just five minutes after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on Wednesday January 8, which just hours after Iran sent an attack of missiles towards two military bases located in Iraq. The attacks on the bases were in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian commander General Qasem Soleimani the week earlier, and their goal was to kill the American troops that were at the bases in Iraq.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani took to his social media account to call the crash a “great tragedy” and “unforgivable mistake.”
“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,” Rouhani’s post said. “Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif however, blamed America for the “human error,” saying in a social media post that Iran’s armed forces concluded that “human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism led to disaster.”
Iran’s statement stressed that the incident occurred during very high tensions with the U.S.
“After the threat of U.S. president and commanders of attacking several important places in our soil and the movement of U.S. planes in the region we were at the highest alert,” they said in an armed forces statement.
“After the attacks the flights of U.S. planes increased in the region and reports came in from strategic centers and many targets were visible in the radar,” the statement went on. “In this sensitive moment the Ukrainian plane while approaching an IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) base was shot down after the plane’s unexpected and sharp turn, leading to the martyrdom of several of our fellow citizens and foreign nationals.”
The statement added that the person responsible for the shootdown of PS752 would face legal consequences and that the military will undertake “major reform in operations of all armed forces” to ensure such “human errors” would not happen again. The Revolutionary Guard Corps has also been ordered to give a full public explanation.
Later it was revealed by a senior Revolutionary Guards commander that the plane had been mistaken for a cruise missile.
The flight-tracking data indicates that the airliner took off only 10 minutes after Zarif announced that the ballistic missile attacks against U.S. military targets had been concluded. Many international airline carriers, as well as America’s Federal Aviation Authority, had already suspended their Iran and Iraq flights once the attacks were made on the bases.
The vice president of Ukraine International Airlines, after hearing about the Iranian admission of fault, said the plane was strictly on its course. It had also been given permission to take off and had received no information from either Kyiv or Tehran airport about a possible threat.
The Iranian admission of fault comes after days of official denials from Tehran despite the word from U.S. and Canadian governments. Intelligence assessments indicated that the plane was most likely shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.