The Ukrainian aircraft that crashed earlier this week in Iran had flown close to a sensitive military site belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards and was shot down unintentionally due to human error, the Iranian military said in a statement read on state TV on Saturday.
The responsible parties would be referred to a judicial department within the military and held accountable, the statement said.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.
Flight 752 crashed Wednesday after takeoff from Tehran’s airport. The crash came hours after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases housing US troops in retaliation for a drone strike at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
After the missile operation in Iraq, US military flights around Iranian borders increased and Iranian military officials reported seeing aerial targets coming toward strategic centers, according to a statement by Iranian armed forces headquarters.
“The aircraft came close to a sensitive IRGC military center at an altitude and flight condition that resembled hostile targeting. Under these circumstances, the aircraft was unintentionally hit, which unfortunately resulted in death of the many Iranian and foreign nationals,” the statement reads.
All 176 people on board were killed in the crash. The victims include 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals.
“Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted.
A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:
Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster
Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 11, 2020
The United States and Canada had said that the plane was shot down, a claim Iran had initially denied.
US official familiar with the intelligence said the aircraft was downed by two Russian-made SA-15 surface-to-air missiles. The US saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner before it was shot down.
“No one will assume responsibility for such a big lie once it is known that the claim had been fraudulent,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a statement earlier Friday, according to state-run Press TV.
Iranian authorities are in possession of the two flight data recorders, also known as black boxes, which Ukrainian investigators got access to Friday. They have yet to start examining the information, but have said it included communications between the pilot and Tehran flight control.