United States officials and intelligence agencies now believe that Iran shot down a commercial airliner, Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752, as it took off from Tehran early Wednesday morning. The crash killed all 167 passengers and nine crew members aboard the Boeing 737-800.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, the evidence appeared to indicate that an attack was the most likely cause of the deadly crash and that the initial claims of "engine failure" issued by Iranian authorities were likely inaccurate. The new reports, detailed by aviation journalist Jeff Wise in New York Magazine, appear to support allegations that Iran shot down the plane.
U.S. officials are said to believe that the plane was likely downed by mistake, according to a report by Business Insider. However, the Pentagon has not confirmed this information at this time.
The plane took off at 6:12 a.m. local time from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport — just hours after Iran launched a missile attack on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. In preparation for an American counter-attack, Iranian anti-aircraft missile systems were in place at the time the Ukrainian airliner went down.
The flight was bound for the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, with a connecting flight to Toronto, Canada, on which 138 of the passengers were reportedly booked. The victims of the crash included 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, and 11 Ukrainian nationals, as well as citizens of four other countries.Ukrainian investigators inspected the crash site and determined that the wreckage showed no signs that the fire aboard the plane was the result of engine failure, according to a report by the Ukrainian news agency Unian.
"The engine malfunction version, the engine explosion, is not confirmed at this time," a source told Unian, per Google Translate. "The aircraft was burning, but the engine failure is not confirmed."
Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council Secretary Alexei Danilov said that Ukrainian investigators believe that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made, surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile, according to the Ukraine news site Censor.net.ua.
Reports on Wednesday indicated that Iranian authorities had recovered both "black box" flight recorders from the plane's wreckage but were refusing to share them with the investigators from Ukraine. However, according to the Unian report, Ukraine expected that Iran would ultimately cooperate with the investigation.
"The Iranians are engaging in normal dialogue. There are no signals that they intentionally want to hide information," a source told Unian.
U.S. intelligence officials detected "blips" on anti-aircraft radar immediately prior to the plane bursting into flames, according to the Business Insider report.