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U.S. Intelligence Alleges Ukraine International Flight Accidentally Shot Down
U.S. intelligence officials have revealed their belief that Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which crashed moments after departing Tehran on Wednesday, was accidentally shot down by a Soviet-built surface-to-air missile operated by the Iranian military. The crash occurred soon after the Iranian military launched missiles at U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq after the death of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
CBS News reports that the US military had detected the missiles on radar soon before the airliner went down. U.S. officials have since reported that it is “highly likely” that the Boeing 737 was shot down.
“Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side,” said U.S. President Donald Trump. “Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question.”
The U.S.’s account has been corroborated by Canadian intelligence. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Canada has evidence from multiple sources indicating that “that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” Business Insider reports. Trudeau added that “this [attack] may well have been unintentional.”
“I want answers. That means closure, transparency, accountability and justice,” Trudeau continued. “We have consular officials who are en route to Ankara, Turkey and Iran is open to issuing visas so that consular assistance can be given on the ground.”
A video circulating online appears to show the moment the airplane went down. In the video, the plane streaks across the sky, on fire, before losing altitude and exploding on the ground. Images of what appears to be fragments of a Tor M-1 missile in a southwest suburb of Tehran have been posted online.
Ukrainian investigators are considering several possibilities, including a shoot-down, engine failure, terrorism, or collision with an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
Meanwhile, Iran has denied responsibility. State officials say that a missile attack would have been “scientifically impossible” and “illogical,” arguing that a range of flights were in Iran at 8,000 feet, the altitude from which flight 752 crashed, at the time of the accident. They have, however, ruled out terrorism.
The pilots flying never made a distress call to air traffic control before their jet crashed.
All 176 passengers and crew onboard the plane are reportedly dead. Among the victims are 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians (including all nine crew), 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Britons and three Germans.
Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority reports that they have recovered the airplane’s black boxes. However, they say that the boxes have sustained damage that caused some memory to be lost. The organization says that it will not hand over the black boxes to Boeing or the U.S., though Canada has expressed its readiness to help interpret them.
The Iranian government has, though, issued a statement affirming they will abide by International Civil Aviation Organization regulations, and it will allow Boeing to send a representative to inspect the black box.
The cause of this crash has the potential to ignite U.S.-Iran tensions that are already heightened. The U.S.’ killing of Soleimani earlier this month caused protests and airstrikes between the US and Iran. Whether the U.S. or its allies will take military action in response to this incident has yet to be seen.
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