Iran has admitted that its military "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane on Wednesday morning, mistaking it for a 'hostile target'. The passenger jet crashed near Iranian capital Tehran minutes after take-off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday. All 176 onboard were killed in the crash. Since the incident, Iran had maintained that the plane crashed due to a technical glitch. However, countries such as the US and Canada had maintained that the plane was downed by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile.
What did Iran say in its statement?
On Saturday morning, Iranian state media carried a statement by the country's military, which said that the Ukrainian plane was "unintentionally" and based on "human error", shot down by the country's military. The incident occurred on the same day and around the same time, when Iran carried out missile attacks on two Iraqi bases, housing American and coalition troops.
The passenger plane was mistaken for a "hostile target" after it turned toward a "sensitive military center" of the Revolutionary Guard. The military was at its "highest level of readiness". "In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit," the statement said, Associated Press reported. Iran issued an apology to the families of victims and foreign nationals.
It said that it would upgrade its systems to prevent such "mistakes" in the future. It also said that those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted. The statement was issued after a session of the Accident Investigation Committee which was attended by foreign and Iranian experts.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif too issued a statement. "A sad day", he said. "Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster". "Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations", he further added.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians.
Initially, Iran portrayed the incident as an accident. On Thursday, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau issued a statement in which he said that Canadian and foreign intelligence suggests that the plane was downed "unintentionally" by an Iranian missile.
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump said that he didn't believe that mechanical failure was responsible for the plane's crash. "It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood. Somebody could have made a mistake", he said.