Iran acknowledged that it “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet early Wednesday, killing all 176 people aboard, according to a military statement on state TV cited by The Associated Press.
The statement, which was released Saturday morning local time, said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard, the AP reported. It also blamed the “highest level of readiness” resulting from tensions with the United States.
The admission comes after Iranian officials vehemently denied claims that they mistakenly shot down the jet and accused the United States of “spreading lies” about intelligence suggesting they did. Of the 176 people killed in the crash, most were Iranian and Canadian nationals.
In the military statement, Iran blamed “human error” for accidentally shooting down the passenger jet.
Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 11, 2020
Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake. #PS752
The plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard, the statement added. The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.
It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.