As reported earlier, Iranian news agencies reported that a Boeing 737 passenger plane crashed minutes after take-off from Tehran.
The plane was operated by a Ukrainian airline and the crash killed all 176 people on board.
Now, two U.S. officials have said it’s “highly likely” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner late Tuesday, killing all 176 people on board, AP reports.
“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 the U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general last week,” AP added.
“The officials, citing U.S. intelligence, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. They said they had no certain knowledge of Iranian intent.”
U.S. officials believe that Iran could have mistaken the airliner for a threat.
President Donald Trump said, “Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.” Trump suggested Iran could be responsible, although he didn’t directly lay the blame on Iran.
Trump did not believe Iran’s initial claim that it was a mechanical issue. “Some people say it was mechanical,” Trump added. “I personally don’t think that’s even a question.”
President Trump said the plane was flying in a “pretty rough neighborhood.”
The U.S. officials did not reveal what intelligence they have that points to an Iranian missile. However, the U.S. has satellites and other sensors in the region as well as other communication intercepts that could identify a missile firing.
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The U.S. assessment comes after a preliminary Iranian investigative report released Thursday said the pilots never made a radio call for help and claimed the aircraft was trying to turn back for the airport when the burning plane went down. Ukraine, meanwhile, said it considered a missile strike as one of several possible theories for the crash, despite Iran’s denials.
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The Iranian report suggests that a sudden emergency struck the Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines late Tuesday, when it crashed, just minutes after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.
Investigators from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization offered no immediate explanation for the disaster, however. Iranian officials initially blamed a technical malfunction for the crash, something initially backed by Ukrainian officials before they said they wouldn’t speculate amid an ongoing investigation.
The Ukrainian International Airlines took off at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday, Tehran time, after nearly an hour’s delay at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport, the main airport for travelers in Iran. It gained altitude heading west, reaching nearly 8,000 feet, according to both the report and flight-tracking data.
Then something went wrong, though “no radio messages were received from the pilot regarding unusual situations,” the report said.
Reports continued saying that the crash was due to technical problems.
The passenger plane was operated by Ukraine International Airlines.
Just after leaving Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport is when the plane crashed.
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Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said that there were no survivors, Reuters reported.
There were conflicting reports about the number of people onboard.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry official told Reuters that there were more than 160 passengers while Iran’s Fars News Agency said the plane was carrying 180 people.
Fars Flightradar24, a flight-tracking site, identified the plane as Flight 752, a 737-800 that was bound for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv from Tehran.
The plane stopped transmitting data about two minutes into the flight.