The general staff of Iran armed forces says a Ukrainian plane that crashed on Wednesday was brought down due to human error. Iran targeted the passenger plane unintentionally, Iran’s Press TV reports.
The crash came just 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, who was one of Iran’s most powerful and influential military leaders.
All 176 people on board the Boeing 737-800 were killed when the Kiev-bound plane crashed shortly after taking off from Imam Khomeini Airport. The victims include 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals.
The field in Iran where the aircraft crashed two days ago has been cleared of most of the wreckage, and the public has been trawling through what’s left behind, new images shared with CNN show.
The photos, taken near a soccer field in Laleh Park in the town of Shahedshahr on Friday, point to a clear lack of security at the site, just a day after western intelligence officials said Iran shot down the jet with surface-to-air missiles.
Normally, forensic officers from major investigative organizations would be poring over the wreckage to see it in its natural state before removing it to a secure area.
An eyewitness at the crash site told CNN on Friday that looters and “garbage men” were “wandering around,” picking up debris, objects made of aluminum and anything else deemed valuable, as police and Revolutionary Guard Corps tried to disperse them.
The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority Ali Abedzadeh told CNN earlier on Friday that fragments of the plane had been taken to a hangar off-site to “reconstruct” it for “investigating the cause of the crash,” and that the remains of victims had been sent to a forensic lab for DNA testing.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told CTV News that Ukrainian investigators had been missing the chairs from the plane, but that they were now beginning to get them from Iranian authorities. The investigators need to check parts for chemical residue, “which would allow us to indicate there was some chemical used in explosives,” he said.
A 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.