Advertisement

US officials: ‘Highly likely’ Iran downed Ukrainian jetliner

Published: Jan. 9, 2020 at 2:48 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

U.S. officials said Thursday it was “highly likely” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner late Tuesday, killing all 176 people on board. They suggested it could well have been a mistake.

President Donald Trump is suggesting he believes Iran was responsible. He is dismissing Iranian claims that it was a mechanical issue that brought down the plane —and is denying any U.S. responsibility.

The officials, citing U.S. intelligence, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

The crash came just a few hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops amid a confrontation with Washington over a U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general.

Ukraine’s leader says Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has assured him of full cooperation in investigating the fatal crash of a Ukrainian airliner near the Iranian capital and that Iran would provide experts access to all data.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke with Rouhani by telephone on Thursday.

Ukrainian officials say they have several working theories, including a missile strike.

Iranian investigators say the crew of the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed outside Tehran the previous day never made a radio call for help and were trying to turn back to the airport when the plane went down.

Iran’s civil aviation authority made the comments in a preliminary crash report released on Thursday.

The Boeing 737-800 crashed just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at U.S. forces but while the timing of the disaster led to questions by some aviation experts, Iranian officials blamed mechanical trouble.

Wednesday’s crash killed all 176 people on board the Ukrainian jetliner, many of them from Iran and also Canada, but also of other nationalities. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed his government will get answers.

The British government says it is investigating “very concerning” reports about the crash of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran, amid speculation that the plane may have been hit by a missile.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office says “the reports we have seen are very concerning and we are urgently looking into them.”

Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday and called for “a full, credible and transparent investigation into what happened,” Downing Street said.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukrainian media that officials had several working theories regarding the crash, including a missile strike, the Associated Press reports.

“A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main (theories), as information has surfaced on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Danilov said. He did not elaborate on where he saw the information on the internet.

The 737-800 model has been the subject of inspections and repairs since last year, after airlines started reporting cracks in a part that keeps the wings attached to the fuselage, according to the Associated Press.

It is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months following two deadly crashes.

Commercial airlines are rerouting flights throughout the Middle East to avoid potential danger during heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.

Jumbled schedules could effect as many as 15,000 passengers per day, lengthen flight times by an average of 30 to 90 minutes, and severely bruise the bottom line for airlines, industry analysts said.