American Media: Iran Accidentally Shot Down Ukraine Plane

A Ukraine airliner that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people on board, was most likely brought down accidentally by Iranian air defenses, US officials reportedly said on Thursday, a conclusion Iran dismissed as "impossible". 

The Ukrainian International airliner bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, crashed minutes after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on Wednesday amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. 

One US official told Reuters News Agency that US satellites had detected the launch of two missiles shortly before the plane crashed, followed by evidence of an explosion. Two officials said Washington believed the downing of the plane was accidental. Newsweek, CBS and the Associated Press news agency also reported the US officials' assessments. 

The Pentagon declined to comment.

Iran reportedly dismissed the reports as "illogical rumors". 

Iranian investigators earlier on Thursday said the airliner was on fire and tried turning back but its crew never made a radio call for help. 

The crash happened hours after Iran launched missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq, in retaliation for the US assassination of a top Iranian commander.

The plane carried mostly Iranians and Iranian Canadians.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had received intelligence from multiple sources indicating that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, adding that it was possible that this was unintentional.

"This reinforces the need for a thorough investigation," he said. "Canadians have questions and they deserve answers."

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he had "suspicions" about what happened to the plane.

An investigation is continuing into what caused the crash.

Amid tensions heightened by the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on 3 January, Iran initially said it would not hand over the recovered black box flight recorders to Boeing, the plane's manufacturer, or to the US.

However, an Iranian official later told Reuters the US had been formally invited to take part in the investigation, and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed it had assigned an investigator.

Boeing said it would support the NTSB in the inquiry, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it had also been invited to the accident site by Tehran.

Under global aviation rules, Iran has the right to lead the investigation, but manufacturers are typically involved.

By Ana Dumbadze 

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10 January 2020 10:34