A man shown at a Tehran newsstand on January 11 reads about the crash of the Ukrainian airliner. (Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran Comes Clean, Says It Downed Airliner, Though in Error

Tehran now admits that the country’s air defenses brought down a Ukrainian International Airlines 737 early on Wednesday, killing all 176 people aboard, saying forces had been on top alert for possible retaliation after Iran, just hours earlier, launched missiles at bases hosting US-led forces in neighboring Iraq. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to Twitter on Saturday, writing: “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake…. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families.” Rouhani added that the people responsible for the error would be prosecuted. Previously, Iran denied having downed the airliner, but the actions – and inactions – of investigators on the ground had raised suspicions. The crash site was never secured for forensic investigators, and almost all the debris – including what could have been missile fragments or signs of a missile strike – was quickly carted away. Further, when the country’s civil aviation authority announced that the airliner’s so-called black boxes had been found, it said they would not be made available to outside investigators. An Australian expert, speaking with CNN on Saturday, said he found it strange that Iranian authorities had not ceased all civil aviation takeoffs and landings in the hours of raised tensions, and just as strange that nothing at all happened to airliners that had taken off along the same route just prior to the Ukrainian jet. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to Twitter on Saturday, writing: “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake…. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families.” Rouhani added that the people responsible for the error would be prosecuted. Previously, Iran denied having downed the airliner, but the actions – and inactions – of investigators on the ground had raised suspicions. The crash site was never secured for forensic investigators, and almost all the debris – including what could have been missile fragments or signs of a missile strike – was quickly carted away. Further, when the country’s civil aviation authority announced that the airliner’s so-called black boxes had been found, it said they would not be made available to outside investigators. An Australian expert, speaking with CNN on Saturday, said he found it strange that Iranian authorities had not ceased all civil aviation takeoffs and landings in the hours of raised tensions, and just as strange that nothing at all happened to airliners that had taken off along the same route just prior to the Ukrainian jet.

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