Iran has admitted that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian civilian passenger jet on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board, Iran’s state TV reports.
According to a statement from the Iranian military on Saturday, it had done so due to “human error” after the plane flew close to a “sensitive military centre” of the Revolutionary Guards, a force set up to defend the country’s Islamic system.
Mistaken for a “hostile target”, the jet was hit by a missile, the statement said.
Iran had previously denied that one of its missiles brought down the plane near the capital, Tehran, on Wednesday.
Read Also: Ukrainian Airlines Crash: We Didn’t Shoot Down Plane, Says Iran
But pressure mounted after the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom said they believed Iran had shot down the plane with a missile possibly accidentally, citing intelligence.
The downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing US forces in Iraq.
The Iranian missile strikes were launched in retaliation to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, by a US drone attack on 3 January.
The Ukrainian flight, en route to Kiev, came down near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran shortly after take-off.
Read Also: Iran ‘Mistakenly’ Shot Down Ukrainian Plane – US
Because of heightened tensions with the US, Iran’s military “was at its highest level of readiness”, the statement said.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit,” it added.
The military apologised for downing the plane, saying it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.
Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, in a post on Twitter described the “horrific crash” of the aircraft as an “unforgivable mistake”.
He stated that investigations are ongoing and those found culpable will be prosecuted.
“Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake. #PS752,” Rouhani tweeted.
Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, in a tweet blamed what he described as “US adventurism” as partly responsible for the air disaster.
“Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations,” Zarif added in his tweet.
Victims of the disaster included 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians as well as nationals from Sweden, the UK, Afghanistan and Germany.