Skip to main content

Iran confirms two missiles were fired at downed Ukrainian airliner

Iran's aviation body asks for international help in black box analysis, after confirming two surface-to-air missiles had brought down the plane
The coffins of Iranian victims of the Ukrainian plane crash during funeral ceremony in Hamadan, Iran on 16 January (Reuters)

Iran has confirmed that two surface-to-air missiles were fired at a Ukrainian airliner brought down outside of Tehran earlier this month, killing all 176 people on board.

In a second preliminary report posted on its website late on Monday, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation confirmed investigators discovered that “two Tor-M1 missiles” had been fired at the aircraft.

Its initial report was released shortly after the 8 January incident, before Iran’s military acknowledged its role in the accidental downing of flight 752 during a tit-for-tat strike on American targets in Iraq following a US attack that killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

The Revolutionary Guard aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility, but said the missile operator who opened fire had been acting independently.

Pressure from home and abroad

Iran's handling of the plane disaster has sparked anti-government protests in Tehran, videos posted on social media showed.

The country is also facing mounting international pressure to carry out a full and transparent investigation into the air disaster.

Tehran has so far refused to send the flight's data records abroad for analysis. Instead, it has asked the US and French authorities for equipment to download information from the plane’s black boxes.

Due to years of US sanctions that limited Iran's ability to purchase modern planes and buy products with US technology, many passenger planes used in Iran are decades old. As a result, the aviation body said it did not have the equipment needed to download information from the model of recorders on the three-year-old US-built Boeing 737.

A list of equipment Iran needs has been sent to French accident agency BEA and the US National Transportation Safety Board, it said.

“Until now, these countries have not given a positive response to sending the equipment to (Iran),” the Iranian aviation body added, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Canada, 57 of whose citizens were among the 176 people killed in the crash, has said France should handle the flight data and voice recorders as one of the few nations with the ability to analyse the information.

Kiev has also repeatedly called for Iran to return the black boxes from the Boeing 737 flown by Ukraine International Airlines.

The air disaster and subsequent unrest comes amid one of the biggest escalations between Tehran and Washington since the revolution four decades ago that turned the two countries into foes.

Tit-for-tat military strikes began with missiles launched at a US base that killed an American contractor in late December, and reached their climax with the killing of Soleimani, the architect of Iran's regional network of proxy militias, in a drone strike in Baghdad on 3 January.

In a step that will increase diplomatic pressure, Britain, France and Germany launched a dispute mechanism last week to challenge Iran for breaching limits on its nuclear programme under an agreement which Washington abandoned in 2018.