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  • US officials believe Iran shot down Ukrainian plane

US officials believe Iran shot down Ukrainian plane

Rescue teams are pictured amid bodies and debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport early Wednesday. (AFP)
Rescue teams are pictured amid bodies and debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport early Wednesday. (AFP)
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10 Jan 2020 03:01:03 GMT9
10 Jan 2020 03:01:03 GMT9
  • Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 probably hit by two surface-to-air missiles fired accidentally
  • Iran's aviation chief says missile strike 'impossible'

WASHINGTON: A Ukraine airliner that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people aboard, was most likely brought down accidentally by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles, US officials said on Thursday.

According to satellite data, one US official said, the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 bound for Kiev was airborne for two minutes after departing Tehran when the heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected.

That was quickly followed by an explosion in the vicinity of the plane, the official said. Heat signature data then showed the plane on fire as it went down.

Two US officials said Washington believed the downing of the plane, which occurred at a time of rising tensions between Iran and the United States, was accidental.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday the deadly crash could have been a mistake and he did not believe it was a mechanical issue.

The Pentagon declined to comment.

“Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.," Trump said, noting the plane was flying in a “pretty rough neighborhood."

“Some people say it was mechanical,” Trump added. "I personally don't think that's even a question."

Iran's head of civil aviation was quoted by ISNA News Agency as saying that it was "impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane."

An Iranian report on Thursday cited witnesses on the ground and in a passing aircraft flying at a high altitude as saying the plane was on fire while in the air.

Reuters

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