Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Saturday admitted "unintentionally" shooting down the Boeing 737 passenger jet operated by Ukraine International Airlines that crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport Wednesday morning, killing all 176 on board. Until the admission, Tehran had repeatedly denied that they were responsible.
Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, blamed "human error" caused by "U.S. adventurism" for the disaster:
The Associated Press reports:
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard's aerospace division, said his unit accepts "full responsibility" for the shootdown. In an address broadcast by state TV, he said that when he learned about the downing of the plane, "I wished I was dead."
He said Guard forces ringing the capital had beefed up their air defenses and were at the "highest level of readiness," fearing that the U.S. would retaliate. He said an officer made the "bad decision" to open fire on the plane after mistaking it for a cruise missile.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, expressed his "deep sympathy" to the families of the victims and called on the armed forces to "pursue probable shortcomings and guilt in the painful incident."
The 176 victims of the disaster include 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals.