Several passengers on an Iranian passenger aircraft that had taken off from Tehran towards Beirut were injured when the pilot of the Mahan Air nose-dived the plane after it was intercepted by an American warplane.
US Central Command later informed that only one F 15 came 1,000 metres close to the Iranian passenger plane while a second F 15 was 2 miles away. According to Iranian news sources, the passenger plane was flying at an altitude of 38,750ft when the Mahan Air pilot nose-dived the plane to 34,000ft to avoid a collision.
A video of the incident that was broadcast on both Iranian and Lebanese news channels shows the Mahan Air Flight W51152 suddenly dropping altitude after a fighter plane came too close. Another video shows the passengers on the Iranian aircraft screaming while the plane lost height and emergency oxygen masks dropped off.
A video clipping shared on social media shows a passenger with his face and head bloodied, while another man is seen lying unconscious on the floor. There were reportedly 150 passengers on the plane and an elderly Lebanese passenger had to be hospitalized in Beirut for treating his injuries.
The Iranian passenger aircraft was flying over Syria when it was confronted by the US warplanes. The US CENTCOM said that it was a standard visual inspection as the passenger plane was in the vicinity of the CJTF-OIR Al Tanf garrison in Syria
"The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at At Tanf garrison. Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft. The professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards," the CENTCOM said in a statement on late Thursday.
Even as US CENTCOM is playing down the mid-air confrontation of the Iranian passenger plane as a mere standard SOP, the Iranian officials have lodged a complaint with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran that meditates between Iran and US.
The incident has come at a time when Iran already is on the edge over a series of explosions and accidents at Iranian nuclear facilities. There have been more than seven mysterious explosions in Iran and there is a growing suspicion that it was work of an Israeli spy squad - Unit 8200.