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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Iranian missile operator shoots Ukrainian passenger jet killing 176

Till a couple of decades ago, travel in an aircraft was a dream for commoner – airport and its vicinity were attractions – one could see hundreds lined-up watching with awe an aeroplane approaching to land or taking-off near Meenambakkam – not any longer – as you experience so much of air-traffic in every airport these days.

Now the World is aghast with the news of a passenger plane being shot down killing the passengers on board.  The  Iranian missile operator who shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176, opened fire because his communications jammed and he thought he had only seconds to take out an incoming cruise missile, a Revolutionary Guards commander has said.  Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards' aerospace commander, said on Saturday the operator had mistaken the Boeing 737 for a U.S. cruise missile responding to Iranian ballistic missile attacks, and only had ten seconds to decide whether or not to open fire.  'I wish I had died, and I wouldn't have seen such an incident,' Hajizadeh said somberly at a press conference. He claimed that a 'request had been made to clear the sky from civil flights at that time, but it did not happen due to reservations.'

For days, Iran vehemently denied that it was responsible for downing Flight 752 from Tehran to Kyiv on Jan 8, accusing the U.S. of spreading malicious propaganda and lies for suggesting such a scenario.

Though the World is shocked, this is not the first incident and perhaps would not be the last too .. .. .. in the  history of commercial aviation, there have been many airliner shootdown incidents which have been caused intentionally or by accident.  Years back in 1988 July, Iran Air Flight 655 from Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas was shot down by an SM-2MR surface-to-air missile fired from USS Vincennes, a guided-missile cruiser of the United States Navy. The aircraft, an Airbus A300, was destroyed and all 290 people on board were killed.  The jet was hit while flying over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, along the flight's usual route, shortly after departing Bandar Abbas International Airport, the flight's stopover location. The incident occurred during the final stages of the Iran–Iraq War, which had been ongoing for nearly eight years.   According to the United States government, the crew of USS Vincennes had incorrectly identified the Airbus as an attacking F-14 Tomcat, a U.S.-made jet fighter that had been part of the Iranian Air Force inventory since the 1970s.  Decades earlier, in Aug 1938 a Douglas DC-2 airliner (the Kweilin) carrying 18 passengers and crew was destroyed by Japanese,  aircraft in China. There were fourteen fatalities. It was the first civilian airliner in history to be shot down by hostile aircraft.

After the recent shoot-down, Hajizadeh claimed that the country's top military leaders were not initially aware that their own air defense system had shot the plan down, leading to confusion. Now the country has come clean, but still blames 'US adventurism' for the fatal 'error'.  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later  extended condolences to the families of those killed in the incident, and promised that those responsible would be prosecuted. 'The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake... My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,' Rouhani said in a statement on Saturday. He said that 'the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for this unforgivable mistake will definitely be identified and prosecuted'.

A military statement published by the country's state TV said it mistook the aircraft for an enemy target and 'unintentionally' fired at the plane on Tuesday, killing 176. Officials said the plane 'took the flying posture and altitude of an enemy target' as it neared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps base and soldiers did not recognize it as a passenger airliner.  While the statement called it human error, the country's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said 'US adventurism' was to blame for Iran shooting down the plane, a week after an American drone killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. Iran had denied for several days that two missiles downed the aircraft. But then the U.S. and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft. The crash site has since been cleared. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed French specialists would help decode the black boxes of the plane, Zelenskiy's office said.  Macron told Zelenskiy in a telephone call France had started a formal procedure to launch an international investigation into the crash, Zelenskiy's office said in a statement, adding that Macron had agreed to visit Kiev. 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. The plane, en route to Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians,  10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons died in the gruesome missile hunt.   The Iranian Civil Aviation Organization said: 'The plane, which was initially headed west to leave the airport zone, turned right following a problem and was headed back to the airport at the moment of the crash. 'The plane disappeared from radar screens the moment it reached 8,000 feet. The pilot sent no radio message about the unusual circumstances.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani publicly addressed the revelation on Twitter, saying an internal investigation has found the missiles were launched and the country regrets the 'disastrous mistake.' 'Armed Forces' internal investigation has now 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,' he wrote. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded that Iran punish those responsible for the downing of a Ukrainian airliner.  Tehran has handed Ukrainian experts enough data including 'all the photos, videos and other materials' to show the investigation 'will be carried out objectively and promptly,' Zelensky's office said. Iran was on high alert at the time, hours after launching ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq in a strike that caused no casualties. That missile strike was in retaliation for a U.S. operation that killed  Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.  

Sad !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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