Western leaders have said evidence suggests an Iranian missile brought down a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran.
Canada and the UK called for a full and thorough investigation into the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.
Iran’s civil aviation chief, however, said he was “certain” that the plane was not hit by a missile.
The crash came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing U.S. forces in Iraq. American media have speculated that the timing of the crash suggests the plane may have been mistaken for a U.S. warplane as Iran prepared for possible U.S. retaliation for the strikes.
Victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians as well as nationals from Sweden, the UK, Afghanistan and Germany.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had received intelligence from multiple sources indicating that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, adding that it was possible that this was unintentional.
“This reinforces the need for a thorough investigation,” he said. “Canadians have questions and they deserve answers.” But he said it was too early to apportion blame or draw any conclusions, and refused to go into detail about the evidence.
Earlier on Thursday, Oleksiy Danylov, the secretary of Ukraine’s security and defence council, said in a Facebook post (in Ukrainian) that a Tor missile strike was one of four possible causes being considered: The others are:
- A mid-air collision with a drone or other flying object
- Engine destruction/explosion due to technical reasons
- An explosion inside the plane as a result of a terror attack
On the other hand, Iran’s top aviation official said the results of a probe into the crash will show what has happened, but Iran is certain no missile hit the aircraft.
The remarks were made by Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran’s Aviation Organisation, during a press conference held in Tehran on Friday. The Iranian official said no comment can be made about the cause of the plane crash and the reason will be determined after opening the black box.
“However, we can state it with certainty that no missile has hit this airplane. The plane was flying for over 1.5 minutes while it was on fire, and the crash site shows the pilot had decided to return [to the airport],” he noted.
Abedzadeh said the Islamic Republic can download the black box data under normal circumstances, but since the box has been damaged it will be difficult to directly extract information from the system.
“We need special software and hardware which are available in our country, but if we fail to extract the data due to the damages of the black box, we will get help from other countries,” he said.
Iran’s Government spokesman Ali Rabiei added: “According to international regulations, representatives from the civil aviation agency of the country where the crash has taken place, the civil aviation agency of the country which has issued the airworthiness certificate (Ukraine), the owner of the airliner (Ukraine International Airlines), the aircraft manufacturer (Boeing Co.), and the jet engine manufacturer (CFM International) can participate in the investigation process.
“A delegate from Ukraine is already in Iran. We call upon Boeing Co. to dispatch its own representative to participate in the process of reading the black box data.”
The spokesman roundly dismissed the Pentagon’s allegations that missiles downed the Ukrainian jet. “No one will assume responsibility for such a big lie once it is known that the claim is fraudulent,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that the psychological operation of the U.S. government, and those supporting it knowingly and unknowingly, are adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families and victimising them for certain goals by propagating such fallacies,” he added.