Fri, Jan 10, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Plane crash in Iran prompts questions

UKRAINE, CANADA:People in two nations among those hardest hit by fatalities mourned, with flags in Ottawa at half-mast and Ukranian leaders promising answers

AP

Rescue personnel work at the scene of a Ukrainian airliner crash near Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP / IRNA / AKBAR TAVAKOLI

The crash of a Ukrainian jetliner that killed 176 people in Iran prompted mourning on Wednesday in Ukraine and Canada — where many of those killed were from or were headed — and raised a host of questions about what went wrong, although US intelligence officials said there was no immediate evidence that it was shot down.

The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US forces.

While the timing of the crash led some aviation experts to ask whether it was brought down by a missile, Iranian officials disputed any such suggestion and blamed mechanical trouble.

“The rumors about the plane are completely false and no military or political expert has confirmed it,” Iranian General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for the Iranian armed forces, was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.

Shekarchi said that the rumors were “psychological warfare” by the government’s opponents.

In Washington, a Democrat who attended a classified briefing by officials from the administration of US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill — including US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel — said the briefers had no intelligence indicating the plane was shot down.

The lawmaker spoke on condition of anonymity.

The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.

The crash just before dawn scattered flaming debris and passengers’ belongings across a wide stretch of farmland.

Many of the passengers were believed to be international students attending universities in Canada; they were making their way back to Toronto by way of Kyiv after visiting with family during the winter break.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 of the passengers were bound for Canada.

The flight also included a family of four and newlyweds, too. The manifest listed several teenagers and children, some as young as one.

The crash ranked among the worst losses of life for Canadians in an aviation disaster. The flag over Parliament in Ottawa was lowered to half-staff and Trudeau vowed to get to the bottom of the disaster.

“Know that all Canadians are grieving with you,” he said, addressing the families of those who died.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy cut short a visit to Oman to return to Kyiv and said a team of Ukrainian experts would go to Tehran to help investigate the crash.

“Our priority is to find the truth and everyone responsible for the tragedy,” Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook.

Ukrainian officials, for their part, initially agreed that the plane was brought down by mechanical trouble, but later backed away from that and declined to offer a cause while the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities said they found the plane’s recorders that store cockpit conversations and instrument data, but given tensions between Iran and the US, it was not immediately clear whether Iran would share the devices with investigators from the US and its allies, or whether Tehran would invite the US National Transportation Safety Board to take part.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine National Security and Defense Council yesterday said that it was looking at whether the jet was downed by a missile or bomb.

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