Friday 17 January 2020

'Evidence that Iranian missile brought down jet' - Trudeau

Poignant: A candlelight vigil was held at the Edmonton Legislature building in Edmonton, Canada. Photo: REUTERS/Candace Elliott
Poignant: A candlelight vigil was held at the Edmonton Legislature building in Edmonton, Canada. Photo: REUTERS/Candace Elliott

Raf Sanchez

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last night said that the Ukraine airliner that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people onboard, was likely brought down by an Iranian missile.

Mr Trudeau cited intelligence from Canadian and other sources as he told a news conference in Ottawa that the destruction of the airliner "may well have been unintentional".

Evidence: Justin Trudeau said the shooting down of the airliner 'may well have been unintentional'. Photo: REUTERS/Blair Gable
Evidence: Justin Trudeau said the shooting down of the airliner 'may well have been unintentional'. Photo: REUTERS/Blair Gable

The flight was on its way to Kiev from Tehran early on Wednesday, with 63 Canadians among the passengers and crew.

"We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence.

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"The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile," he said.

British leader Boris Johnson said Western intelligence agencies had concluded that the downing of the jet by Iran was most likely an accident.

US satellites reportedly picked up two surface-to-air missiles being launched shortly before the accident and US officials suspect there are missile fragments near the crash site where all 176 passenger died.

Mr Johnson said: "There is now a body of information that the flight was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional."

British and Canadian officials said they believed the US assessment was credible.

However, Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation pushed back, calling the allegation "illogical" and asked why the plane had turned back towards the airport if it had been hit by a missile.

Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 took off just hours after Iran had fired rockets at US soldiers stationed in Iraq, leading to speculation the accident could have come from the "fog of war".

America's belief that the alleged missile launch was a mistake is underscored by the fact that 82 Iranian citizens were killed in the crash, as well as 11 Ukrainians and three Britons.

'Newsweek', CBS and CNN first reported the US conclusion yesterday.

US President Donald Trump declined to be explicit about how he thought the plane had crashed or who was behind it when asked, but said: "I have my suspicions."

"Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don't think that's even a question," Mr Trump said, adding: "Something very terrible happened."

The Ukrainian plane left Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran at 6.10am local time on Wednesday bound for Kyiv.

Hours earlier, Iran had launched rockets at US soldiers in two Iraqi bases in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani.

The decision to fly despite the launch of a military attack hours earlier has been called into question, with some asking why all passenger planes were not barred from passing through the airspace.

US media outlets reported that satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by US military and intelligence lay behind America's assessment that Iran was to blame.

US officials said data showed Iranian radar had been tracking the plane before the missiles were fired, according to news agencies.

The plane was airborne for just two minutes before an explosion.

CNN noted punctures on the aircraft's fuselage found among the wreckage, possibly indicating an explosion outside the aircraft.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to be on fire before it crashed.

According to an Iranian initial assessment, it turned back towards the airport before going down.

Boeing and the FAA declined to comment yesterday, as did the Pentagon.

Ukrainian officials had no immediate comment.

Iran's aviation organisation said it would invite the US as the state of manufacture to participate in the investigation.

The tragedy has echoes of Malaysian airlines flight MH17, shot down by Russian-backed separatists as it flew over eastern Ukraine in 2014 amid an emerging war in the area.

Iranian officials said the Ukrainian plane's black box has been recovered. CNN reported it would be handed over to the Ukrainians today.

Oleksei Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's national security council, said a 45-person-strong Ukrainian team had reached the crash site just outside of Tehran and would search for missing fragments.

Mr Danilov said: "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."

He appeared to be referring to unverified photographs posted by a number of Iranian Twitter users of what appeared to be a missile nose cone among crash debris.

Telegraph.co.uk

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