World leaders have lined up to blame Iran of accidentally shooting down the Ukrainian passenger plane which crashed outside Tehran with no survivors in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “there is now a body of information that the flight was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile. This may well have been unintentional.”
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said that there was evidence that the flight – which had 63 Canadian nationals among its 176 passengers – was brought down by a missile.
Both leaders called for a full and thorough inquiry into the incident, which Johnson labelled a “tragedy.”
US media reported that officials had concluded that the plane, which had 176 people onboard, was downed by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles.
The Boeing 737-800, which was headed for Kiev, was airborne for around two minutes before satellite data showed the heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles.
According to one official, the missiles’ appearance was swiftly followed by an explosion, with further data showing the plane burning as it went down.
Washington is assuming the plane’s downing, which came after a week of simmering tensions in the Middle East, to have been a mistake.
The crash came shortly after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two coalition bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Republic’s elite Quds force.
No official statement has been issued, but US president Donald Trump said that he “had his suspicions” about the crash, adding that he did not think it was due to a mechanical issue.
“It’s a tragic thing”, he told reporters. “But someone could have made a mistake – on the other side.”
Sources told US magazine Newsweek that the missile used was a Russian-built Tor-M1, known to Nato as Gauntlet.
Ukrainian officials, who had earlier said that they were investigating the possibility of a missile attack, demanded to search the crash site after unverified pictures of missile debris appeared on social media.
Iran’s head of civil aviation told state media that “it was impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane.”
Thus far, however, Tehran has refused to hand over the plane’s black box recording devices to Boeing, insisting that it will investigate independently.
In an initial report, it said that the plane had encountered a technical problem after take-off and had started to head towards a nearby airport.