Multiple intelligence sources say Ukraine plane shot down, Trudeau tells media

Plane never made a radio call for help and was trying to turn back to the airport

Ottawa: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Canada had intelligence from multiple sources indicating that a Ukrainian airliner which crashed outside Tehran was mistakenly shot down by Iran.

“We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” Trudeau told reporters.

“This may well have been unintentional,” Trudeau added in a press conference.

A total of 176 people, including 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, were killed when the plane came down shortly after take-off on Wednesday, shortly after Iran launched missiles towards bases in Iraq housing US troops.

Crew never made radio call for help

The crew of a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed in Iran never made a radio call for help and were trying to turn back for the airport when the plane went down, according to an initial Iranian report released Thursday on the disaster that killed 176 people.

The report suggested a sudden emergency struck the Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines early Wednesday morning, when it went down just moments after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.

Ukraine calls for “unconditional support”

Ukraine on Thursday called for “unconditional support” of its investigators after a Ukrainian passenger plane crashed in Iran, with the US media reporting it had been accidentally shot down by a missile.

Iran denied the reports that a missile had caused the crash, in which all 176 people aboard died when the plane went down soon after takeoff near Tehran on Wednesday.

“The circumstances of this catastrophe are still unclear,” Ukrainian deputy foreign minister Sergiy Kyslytsya said at a UN meeting in New York.

“It’s now up to experts to investigate and to find answers to the question of what caused the crash. To do so, our experts must receive unconditional support for their investigation.”

US media reports claim crash was a ‘mistake’

Several media outlets in the United States claimed that official sources believe that the plane crash in Tehran could have been a ‘mistake’. Media outlet CBS reported that US officials said they believed the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was hit by a missile.

Adding to the speculation, on Thursday US President Donald Trump said “I have my suspicions” about the crash, adding that “Somebody could have made a mistake.”

Ukraine authorities had been looking in to the possibility of a missile strike as one of the probable causes for the crash that killed all 176 people on board. 

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a phone call with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, discussed the investigation into the Ukrainian plane crash in Iran, Zelenskiy’s office said on Thursday.

“Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran would provide the Ukrainian expert group with prompt access to all the necessary data,” it said in a statement.

Under international aviation rules, Iran is responsible for running the inquiry into the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800.

We will definitely find out the truth. We will conduct a detailed and independent investigation.

– President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine

Mourners attend a vigil at University of Toronto student housing for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger jet which crashed in Iran, in a still image from video in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 8, 2020.

Investigators from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization offered no immediate explanation for the disaster, however.

Eyewitnesses, including the crew of another passing flight, described seeing the plane engulfed in flames before crashing, the report said. The crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because the aircraft had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Kyiv, Ukraine.

The Ukrainian International Airlines took off at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday, after nearly an hour’s delay at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport, the main airport for travelers in Iran. It gained altitude heading west, reaching nearly 8,000 feet, according to both the report and flight-tracking data.

Then something went wrong, though “no radio messages were received from the pilot regarding unusual situations,’’ the report said. In emergencies, pilots typically immediately contact air-traffic controllers.

A candle is placed on a table bearing photos of some of the victims of a Ukraine International Airlines passenger flight that crashed after takeoff near Tehran

The report also confirmed that both of the so-called “black boxes” that contain data and cockpit communications from the plane had been recovered, though they had damaged and some parts of their memory was lost. It also said that investigators have initially ruled out laser or electromagnetic interference as causing the crash.

What caused the crash?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, meanwhile, said crash investigators from his country had arrived in Iran to assist in the probe. He also said he planned to call Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about the crash and the investigation.

“Undoubtedly, the priority for Ukraine is to identify the causes of the plane crash,” Zelenskiy said. “We will surely find out the truth.”

Theories of a possible missile strike

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukrainian media that officials had several working theories regarding the crash, including a missile strike.

“A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main (theories), as information has surfaced on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Danilov said. He did not elaborate on where he saw the information on the internet.

Ukrainian investigators that arrived in Iran earlier on Thursday currently await permission from Iranian authorities to examine the crash site and look for missile fragments, Danilov said.

Ukraine has a grim history with missile attacks, including in July 2014 when one such strike downed a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.

Danilov also said other possible causes under consideration included a drone or another flying object crashing into the plane, a terrorist attack or an engine malfunction causing an explosion. However, no terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The plane was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The crash just before dawn scattered flaming debris and passengers’ belongings across a wide stretch of farmland. It also came immediately after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops amid a confrontation with Washington over it killing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general in a drone strike last week.

Majority are Canadian

Many of the passengers were believed to be international students attending universities in Canada” they were making their way back to Toronto by way of Kyiv after visiting with family during the winter break.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 of the passengers were bound for Canada.. The flight also included a family of four and newlyweds, too. The manifest listed several teenagers and children, some as young as 1 or 2.

The crash ranked among the worst losses of life for Canadians in an aviation disaster. The flag over Parliament in Ottawa was lowered to half-staff, and Trudeau vowed to get to the bottom of the disaster.

“Know that all Canadians are grieving with you,” he said, addressing the victims’ families.

Ukrainian officials, for their part, initially agreed with Iranian suspicions that the 3-year-old plane was brought down by mechanical trouble but later backed away from that and declined to offer a cause while the investigation is going on.

While the cause of the tragedy remained unknown, the disaster could further damage Boeing’s reputation, which has been battered by the furor over two deadly crashes involving a different model of the Boeing jet, the much-newer 737 Max, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months. The uproar led to the firing of the company’s CEO last month.

Boeing extended condolences to the victims’ families and said it stands ready to assist.

Source ; News Agencies

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