Canada PM says evidence indicates Iran shot down Ukraine jet
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada has intelligence from multiple sources indicating a Ukrainian airliner that crashed on Wednesday near Tehran was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.
U.S. officials had earlier said the airliner was most likely brought down accidentally by Iranian air defenses. All 176 people on board, including 63 Canadians, were killed.
“We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa.
“This may well have been unintentional. This new information reinforces the need for a thorough investigation into this matter,” he continued.
Trudeau said his government would not rest until it had obtained closure, transparency, accountability and justice.
He also said he had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who told him that Iran would allow investigators from Kiev into the country.
Earlier on Thursday, a U.S. official, citing an extensive review of satellite data, said Washington had concluded with a high degree of certainty that anti-aircraft missiles brought down the plane. The official said the Boeing 737-800 had been tracked by Iranian radar.
The U.S. government believes Iran shot down the plane by mistake, three U.S. officials told Reuters.
The data showed the plane was airborne for two minutes after departing Tehran when the heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected, one of the officials said.
That was quickly followed by an explosion in the vicinity of the plane, the official said. Heat signature data then showed it on fire as it went down. Heat signatures are infrared emissions detected by U.S. military satellites.
The New York Times said it had obtained and verified a video that appeared to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near Tehran airport.
Iran denied that the airliner had been hit by a missile.
“All these reports are a psychological warfare against Iran … all those countries whose citizens were aboard the plane can send representatives and we urge Boeing to send its representative to join the process of investigating the black box,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a statement.
An initial report issued by Iran’s civil aviation organization on Thursday said the 3-year-old airliner, which had its last scheduled maintenance on Monday, encountered a technical problem shortly after takeoff and started to head toward a nearby airport before it crashed.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump said he did not believe the crash of the airliner was due to a mechanical issue.
“It’s a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake – on the other side,” Trump said.
Riki Ellison, a defense expert and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said the radar signature of a Boeing airliner would have been quite similar to a large U.S. military transport plane.
“They (the Iranians) were on full alert to shoot down anything that resembled a U.S. aircraft. Somebody made a mistake by identifying it as a warplane,” Ellison said.
Once the missiles were fired, it would have been impossible to divert them, even if the ground operators realized their error, he said. “Once you shoot those things, it’s over.”
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since Trump ordered the U.S. drone killing of a top Iranian general on Friday. Trump has refrained from ordering more military action and Iran’s foreign minister said the strikes on Iraqi bases that house U.S. forces had “concluded” Tehran’s response.
Investigations into airliner crashes require regulators, experts and companies across several international jurisdictions to work together. It can take months to fully determine the cause and issuing an initial report within 24 hours is rare.
The Ukrainian airliner took off at 6:12 a.m. and was given permission to climb to 26,000 feet (7,925 m), Iran’s report said. It crashed six minutes later near the town of Sabashahr.
There was no radio communication from the pilot and the aircraft disappeared from radar at 8,000 feet (2,440 m), the report said.