Iran on Saturday admitted that it had “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian plane that crashed earlier this week, blaming the tragedy on a “human error.”
The Ukrainian International Airlines plane crashed on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board. According to a press statement issued by the IRNA news agency, the airliner was mistaken for a “hostile plane” and was hit while enemy threats were at the highest level. Prior to issuing this confirmation, Iran had claimed that it had not fired any missiles at the plane, despite the U.S. and Canada claiming intelligence had found Tehran was responsible.
Senior military officials told Iranian media that the plane had flown close to a “sensitive military center” and was mistaken for a “hostile target.” It said the mistake occurred because the Iranian military had been at its “highest state of readiness” amid tensions with the U.S. resulting from Washington’s killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
The media report said Tehran would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” from occurring again. It added that the military had vowed to hold accountable anyone found responsible, and expressed condolences to the victims’ families.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a post on Twitter on Saturday, said the incident was “regrettable.” He described it as a “great tragedy and unforgivable mistake.” By contrast, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif appeared to accuse the U.S. of inciting the tragedy. “Human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism led to disaster,” he posted on Twitter. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations,” he added.