Missile or terror attack? what brought down jet, Ukraine probes

The Ukrainian government is looking for possible causes for the sudden crash of a passenger jet in Iran, including a possible missile strike.

Oleksiy Danylov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, said Ukrainian investigators wanted to search for any missile fragments after information “appeared on the internet” suggesting debris from a Russian anti-aircraft missile was found.

Danylov specifically cited unconfirmed claims online that fragments of a possible Russian-made Tor surface-to-air missile had been discovered.

There are reports of holes in some of the wreckage at the crash site have drawn comparisons to damage done to the Malaysia Air flight that was shot out of the sky over Ukraine more than five years ago.

When the Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau was asked to “say categorically” that the Ukrainian jet carrying dozens of Canadians was not shot down, he said it was “too early to speculate.”

Witnesses say the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was engulfed in flames before it crashed down just minutes after take-off from Tehran early Wednesday morning.

All the 176 people on board were killed.

The other three possibilities “being studied,” according to Danylov, were a mid-air collision with drone or “other flying object,” an explosion on the plane “as a result of a terrorist attack,” or a technical failure that led to the explosion of an engine.

The plane’s crew never made a radio call for help and was trying to turn back to the airport in Tehran when the aircraft dropped off the radar, according to an initial Iranian reports. The lack of such a distress call suggested a sudden emergency struck the plane. Investigators from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization offered no immediate explanation for the disaster.

The Reuters news service said a Canadian security source told it there were signs one of the plane’s engines had overheated.

The crash caused a massive explosion when the aircraft hit the ground, likely because it had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. It scattered flaming debris and passengers’ belongings across a wide stretch of farmland.

The black boxes that contain data and cockpit communications from the plane were recovered, though they were damaged and some parts of their memory was lost.

The crash came soon after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops over its killing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general in a drone strike last week.