Iran denies plane crash cover-up
Michael McCain, the CEO of Canadian food packaging company Maple Leaf Foods, said one of his colleagues lost his wife and 11-year-old son in the plane crash.
In a series of tweets posted on the company's verified Twitter account, McCain said he believes that the United States was ultimately responsible for their deaths. He also accused President Trump of destabilizing the Middle East by tearing up the Iran nuclear deal agreed to under the Obama administration.
As of about 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the company's Twitter account had fewer than 1,500 followers. McCain's tweet, however, had been liked about 11,500 times and retweeted 4,100 times.
Maple Leaf Foods is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company employs about 12,500 people, according to its website.
See McCain's tweets below:
Video circulating on social media appears to show Iranian riot police firing tear gas on crowds in Tehran's Azadi Square over the weekend. The images also appear to show several people being detained. CNN cannot independently verify these videos.
Security forces were deployed in key areas of the capital, including Azadi Square near Sharif University, Enghelab (Revolution) Square near Tehran University, and Ferdowsi Square.
Fully equipped riot police were on patrol, accompanied by water cannons and black vehicles that are sometimes used as mobile detention centers.
In one video posted on social media, protesters chanted for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted. "Death to the dictator," some chanted. In one video, demonstrators chanted, "Khamenei have shame. Leave the country."
Another shows what looks like people running away from what appears to be some sort of smoke or gas.
A third video shows people coughing as the smoke gets nearer. Someone is heard shouting "“if the cars go, they will send in the bikes," likely a reference to the fact that Iran's security forces often come in on motorbikes wielding batons to break up protests.
British Ambassador to Iran Rob Macaire was temporarily arrested Saturday amid the unrest.
According to the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Macaire was arrested while in the middle of a crowd of protesters in front of Tehran's Amir Kabir University.
He was accused of instigating and directing radical and destructive demonstrations, and later released. On Sunday, he was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Macaire said on Twitter that he wasn't taking part in any demonstrations -- and was instead paying respect to victims of the downed Ukrainian plane.
Thousands of Iranians took to the streets in nationwide anti-government protests late last year, before the rising tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The demonstrations were sparked by a hike in gas prices in November. Social media images showed banks, petrol stations and government buildings set ablaze by rioters. Some protesters chanted "down with Khamenei," according to videos, referring to the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The government responded by shutting down the internet in an attempt to stop the flow of information. International human rights organizations and Western governments accused Tehran of using force to quell the unrest and killing dozens of protesters. The United Nations said it had video evidence that Iranian security forces were "shooting to kill," and Amnesty International claimed at least 208 protesters had been killed in 21 cities, citing "credible reports."
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign affairs did not respond immediately to a request for comment in December on the Amnesty report.
Apologies from Iranian leaders over the downing of an airliner last week have done little to quell mass anti-government protests spreading across the country.
Thousands of demonstrators hit the streets this weekend condemning Iranian authorities for shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane and killing all 176 people on board.
In Iran, demonstrators are calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted.
"Khamenei have shame. Leave the country," chanted protesters in the capital, Tehran, in footage posted on social media.
Khamenei has been in office for three decades, and there is no limit to his term.
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Iran said Saturday that it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error and "US adventurism" for the crash that left 176 people dead.
In a statement, the nation's armed forces said it targeted the passenger plane unintentionally. It attributed the crash to radar activity and fear of US action.
Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 crashed Wednesday after takeoff from Tehran's airport. The crash came hours after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases housing US troops in retaliation for a drone strike at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
Here's what we know:
- Surface-to-air missiles: The Ukrainian plane that crashed Wednesday was shot down by Iran with two Russian-made surface to air missiles, according to a US official familiar with the intelligence. The US saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner before it was shot down.
- Canada grieves: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government expects the "full cooperation" of Iranian authorities in investigating the downing of the plane. Fifty-seven of the 176 people who were killed were Canadian nationals.
- Apologies made: Trudeau and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke via phone Saturday about the Ukrainian passenger jet being shot down, according to a readout of the phone call from the Canadian government. Rouhani expressed "profound regret for the shooting down of the aircraft by the Iranian military." Hossein Salami, the chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), apologized on Sunday. “We did made a mistake. Some of our compatriots were martyred because of our mistake but it was unintentional," Salami said.
- Aircraft built in 2016: Ukraine International Airlines said in a statement that the plane was a Boeing 737-800 NG, "built in 2016 and delivered directly to the airline from the manufacturer."
- Airline's first crash: Ukraine International Airlines was founded in 1992 as the national flag carrier, one year after Ukraine got independence from Moscow. According to its website, the airline operates 42 aircraft, connects Ukraine to 38 countries, and its base hub is Kiev's Boryspil International Airport. This is the first crash involving one of the carrier's planes.
Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 crashed Wednesday after takeoff from Tehran's airport.
The crash came hours after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases housing US troops in retaliation for a drone strike at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
Here's a quick recap of the US-Iran crisis that has increased tensions in the Middle East in recent weeks:
- 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 Iraqi 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.
- Jan. 3: 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.
- Jan. 5: The military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader said his country's retaliation to the killing will certainly be a military response "against military sites."
- Jan. 8: In the early hours of Wednesday local time, Iranian ballistic missiles struck two bases housing US forces in Iraq, in retaliation for Soleimani's death. Later Wednesday, Trump said the strikes appeared to be the extent of Iran's actions and pledged more US sanctions on Tehran, signalling a scaling down of tensions -- at least for the moment.
- Jan. 9: The US House of Representatives approved the Iran War Powers resolution with a vote of 224-194.The resolution is aimed at restraining the President’s ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval.
- Jan 10: Trump claimed in an interview Friday that Soleimani was targeting four embassies before he was killed. "I can reveal that I believe it would've been four embassies," Trump said in an interview with Fox News.
- Jan. 11: Iran admitted Saturday that it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error and "US adventurism" for the crash that left 176 people dead. Thousands of people gathered in front of the gate of Amir Kabir University in Tehran to protest against the Iranian government.
- Jan. 12: Trump took to Twitter to warn Iranian leaders to "NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS" following a series of anti-government demonstrations in Tehran on Saturday. "Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching," the tweet also said. Defense Secretary Mark Esper believes, as the President also said, that four US embassies were being targeted by the Iranians for attack but said he couldn’t discuss any intelligence that the US had regarding that threat.