The Ukrainian passenger jet had crashed shortly after taking off from an airport in Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Iran said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” amid heightened tensions with the US.
Iran state TV on Saturday cited a military statement as saying that the country “unintentionally” fired a missile at a Ukrainian jetliner because of “human error.”
The Ukraine International Airlines plane had flown close to a sensitive military site when it was brought down, Iranian state TV reported.
The aircraft, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.
‘Mistaken for a hostile target’
According to the Iranian military’s statement, the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard. Iran’s military forces were at their “highest level of readiness,” after the US killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said, apologizing for the disaster and saying that the country would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.
The military statement said those responsible would be held accountable.
‘Disastrous’ and ‘unforgivable’
In a tweet, Iranian President Hassan Rouhan expressed his regrets.
“The Islamic Republic deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” he said. “Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake.”