TEHRAN: Iran has admitted that its military "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 on board soon after its missile attack on two US air bases in Iraq last week.
According to a report in Al Jazeera, a statement on Saturday morning blamed "human error" for the incident, adding that the military mistook Flight 752 for a "hostile target".
Press TV also quoted Iran's General Staff of the Armed Forces as saying that the plane had flown close to a "sensitive military site".
"In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military said. It apologised and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.
In a statement posted on social media, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote that the country "deeply regretted this disastrous mistake".
"My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences," he said, adding that "investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake," Rouhani was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying.
The admission came days after US and Canada cited intelligence, saying they believe Iran shot down the aircraft.
The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukraine International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US forces in Iraq. The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, when it was shot down.
Al Jazeera's Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said questions were now being raised as to why Iranian authorities kept the country's air space open during a military operation.
"There's a lot of explaining to do by Iranian authorities. People want to know why and how it happened."
Image Credit: Al Jazeera