Iran shot down plane with two Russian-made missiles, US official says
The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority is questioning the US allegation that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner that crashed shortly after takeoff in Tehran.
“If a rocket or missile hits a plane, it will free fall," Ali Abedzadeh told CNN.
He said once the plane took off, it continued flying for five minutes. Abedzadeh said “the pilot tried to return to the airport but failed.”
Abedzadeh went on to ask, “How can a plane be hit by rocket or missile” and then the pilot “try to turn back to the airport?”
Boeing shares are rising following reports that Iran may have mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian 737 jet Wednesday.
The United States increasingly believes that Iran downed the plane soon after it took off from Tehran, CNN and other news outlets reported. The crash took place hours after Iranian rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq.
Early reports suggested the plane went down because of a mechanical problem. Investors were concerned that could add to Boeing's long list of 737 problems and could further disrupt its business. Shares of Boeing, which fell Wednesday, were up 2% on the news.
The US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner, according to multiple US officials. CNN is told this could be a fog of war incident, and Iran may have believed it was under attack.
Here's a quick recap of the US-Iran crisis that has increased tensions in the Middle East:
- Dec. 27: A rocket attack believed to be linked to a Shiite militia group, backed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several US and Iraq military personnel on a base near Kirkuk, Iraq.
- Dec. 29: According to the Pentagon, US forces conducted airstrikes at five facilities in Iraq and Syria controlled by a Shiite military group known as Kataib Hezbollah — the group that American officials blamed for the attack on a base near Kirkuk.
- Dec. 31: Pro-Iranian protesters, demonstrating against the American airstrikes, attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad, scaling walls and forcing the gates open.
- Friday: Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani, is killed by an airstrike in Iraq, which was ordered by President Trump. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the airstrikes disrupted an "imminent attack" in the region that put American lives at risk. After the strike, the US announced it will deploy thousands of additional troops to the Middle East.
- Sunday: The military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader said his country's response to the killing will certainly be a military response "against military sites."
- Tuesday: Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing US troops late Tuesday night US time (or early Wednesday local). The attack appears to be retaliation for Soleimani's death, and no casualties have been reported.
CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr said the US believes Iran mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian plane, explaining that Iranian troops may have believed they were under attack.
"It could be very possible, CNN is told, that this is a fog of war incident," Starr reported.
She explained that one possibility being considered is that "the Iranian missile unit, the troops on the ground in Iran at that point, perhaps saw something on their own radar returned, perhaps thought they were under attack and fired."
President Trump said he suspected that the recent plane crash in Iran was not due to mechanical issues, indicating that “somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.”
Asked during a White House event what he thought happened to the plane, Trump said, “Well, I have my suspicions.”
“I don’t want to say that because other people have their suspicions,” Trump said, but added, “Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side … not our system. It has nothing to do with us.”
“It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood. They could’ve made a mistake. Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question.”
Asked if he thought it was downed by accident, Trump said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know … that’s up to them. At some point they’ll release the black box.”
“Ideally they’d give it to Boeing,” he said, but said giving it to France or “some other country” would be fine, too.
“Something very terrible happened, very devastating,” he concluded.
Important to know: Just moments ago, CNN reported that the US believes Iran shot down the plane by accident.
The US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner, according to multiple US officials. The working theory is based on continuing analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by US military and intelligence.
The flight was downed following Iranian strikes on US forces in Iraq.
Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization head, Ali Abedzadeh, said it would not hand the flight data recorders to Boeing or the United States after they were found on Wednesday.
Newsweek was first to report US and Iraqi sources believe Iran shot down the plane by mistake
The UK is looking into "very concerning" reports about the Iran plane crash, a Downing Street spokesperson said, according to the PA news agency.
"I'm not going to speculate on this but the reports we have seen are very concerning and we are urgently looking into them," the spokesperson told PA.
Ukraine officials said earlier Thursday they are looking into multiple causes for the crash, including a missile strike or terrorism.
Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs Anne Linde told CNN's Becky Anderson that nothing was being ruled out concerning the causes of the plane crash. Ten Swedish nationals were among the 176 dead.
This comes as Iran's Civil Aviation Organization invited Sweden to join the crash investigation on Thursday.
Linde told CNN said it was important to have "transparency" in the investigation, and said she did not think it was problematic that Iran was leading the inquiry.
It is "just following international rules because the plane crashed in Tehran and it's their authority to lead," she said.
She added that Sweden had no concerns about a lack of transparency on the ground.
"We are counting on the Iranian authorities to be transparent [and] to let all the experts from different countries to be able to check all the evidence," she said. "We have no reason to doubt anything at this stage."
Ali Abedzadeh, the chief of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, wrote in a preliminary report on the crash that both of the plane's black boxes have been damaged, with physical damage visible.
"Both devices have been damaged by fire and the accident. There is the memory parts in both devices, however, physical damage is visible on them," the report wrote.
He added that the aircraft first rose to an "altitude of 8000 feet" before disappearing from the radar screen, and the aircraft hits the ground.
There were no radio messages from the pilot before it crashed, Abedzadeh wrote. It appeared the plane was heading westward from the airport, and when problems occurred it turned right, and crashed as it attempted to return to the airport, he added.