Iran admitted that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner that it mistook for a threat during hostilities with the U.S., marking a dramatic reversal after insisting that the deadly crash was caused by mechanical failure.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was flying close to a sensitive Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military site when it was downed because of "human error," the army said after conducting its own investigation, Bloomberg reported.
IRGC officials will elaborate on the crash on state media, it said.
It promised that the "culprits" would be identified and referred to judicial authorities.
"Iran's armed forces went on high alert following U.S. threats to target Iranian sites," the army said. "Under such highly sensitive and critical circumstances, the Boeing Flight 752 flew close to a sensitive IRGC military site at an altitude and angle that made it look like a hostile target. The plane was hit due to human error and unintentionally."
As recently as Friday, Iran denied that it had fired a missile at the plane and accused western governments of "psychological warfare." Officials in multiple western countries have said they believe it was shot down accidentally. A U.S. spy satellite detected the firing of two SA-15 surface-to-air missiles, a person familiar with the intelligence said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, Bloomberg said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed "human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism" for the disaster, according to a post on Twitter.
A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 11, 2020
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.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday night.
There are no obvious military sites visible on satellite photos of the plane's flight path. A power plant and an industrial park are in the area where the Ukrainian jet stopped transmitting its position, as well as large areas of undeveloped land, according to Google.
The plane appeared to fly on a normal path to the northwest of the airport on the same heading as the runway from which it departed, according to the flight-tracking service FlightRadar24.
It flew straight for just over two minutes after takeoff, according to the company. At that point, it made a slight turn to the right and continued for another 42 seconds.
As UNIAN reported earlier, Kyiv-bound UIA flight PS752 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport in the early hours of Wednesday, January 8. It was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members on board. Two passengers and the crew members were Ukrainians. There were also 82 citizens of Iran, 63 citizens of Canada, 10 citizens of Sweden, four citizens of Afghanistan, three citizens of Germany and the United Kingdom each. There were no survivors.