By Bukola Olasanmi
Iran has announced that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 on board.
The statement on Saturday morning blames “human error” for the incident.
Press TV also quoted Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces as saying that the plane had flown close to a “sensitive military site”.
Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft. But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft.
Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said that authorities acknowledged that the country’s air defence system “mistakenly” shot the plane down, and offered condolences to the families of the victims.
The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US forces.
Al Jazeera’s Baig said that questions are now raised why Iranian authorities kept the country’s air space open during a military operation.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.