The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force said Saturday he informed authorities on Wednesday that a missile had downed the Ukrainian passenger plane.
Brigadier-General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said at a press conference in Tehran that after he told senior IRGC members about it, the general staff of the Armed Forces formed its own investigative team, from which he was excluded.
Hajizadeh partially blamed the US for the downing of the plane, saying Iran was already on high alert following the US’s warning that it could target 52 sites in Iran, and amid rising tensions with the country.
He said the plane was shot down by a short-range missile and was misidentified as a cruise missile by an air defense operator.
The operator identified the plane as a cruise missile but was unable to contact the central air defense command to confirm it. So he had to choose between shooting it down or not, and he choose to do it, Hajizadeh said. The operator had 10 seconds to make a decision.
Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility for the incident and said once it became clear what had happened, he thought: “I wish I was dead.”