TEHRAN: Iran’s civil aviation chief denied Friday that a Ukrainian airliner crashed, killing all 176 on board a missile, dismissing claims of a catastrophic error by Tehran’s air defenses.
Since Britain and Canada referred to what they said were signs of an imminent missile strike, the announcement at a press conference in the Iranian capital arrived.
“One thing is for certain, this airplane was not hit by a missile,” Iran’s civil aviation chief Ali Abedzadeh said.
The Boeing 737 crashed on Wednesday in reaction to the killing of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike in Baghdad, shortly after Tehran launched missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq.
It is the worst civil aviation tragedy in Iran since 1988 when the U.S. military said it was wrong to shoot down an Iran Air plane, killing all 290 people on board.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that multiple sources of intelligence indicated that Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 had been downed by an Iranian missile after it had taken off Tehran.
Yet Abedzadeh rejected the claim, stating that “any remarks made before collecting the data (from the black box flight recorders of the plane) … is not an expert opinion.”
Comments from Trudeau came as video footage emerged showing the moment the airliner was hit.
The video, which The New York Times said it had checked, shows a fast-moving object rising in the sky at an angle before a bright flash is seen, dimmed and then moving forward.
Citing reports from allies as well as Canada’s own intelligence, Trudeau said that an Iranian surface-to-air missile appeared to have struck the aircraft.
“We know this may have been unintentional. Canadians have questions, and they deserve answers,” Trudeau told reporters.
Other Western leaders supported him, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said that mounting evidence supported a missile strike that “may have been unintentional.”
US President Donald Trump said officials in Washington believed that one or more Iranian missiles had struck the Kiev-bound Boeing 737 before it crashed and exploded outside Tehran.