Iran’s military announced early Saturday that it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error because of what it called the plane’s sharp, unexpected turn toward a sensitive military base.
The announcement reversed Iran’s claims that mechanical issues caused the crash of the aircraft on Wednesday, which killed all 176 people aboard. It had persistently denied that Iranian military defenses had downed the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter soon after the military released its statement. He offered condolences to the victims’ families and said investigations were underway. The military said the person responsible would face legal consequences.
International pressure had been building on Iran to take responsibility. American and allied intelligence assessments had already concluded that Iranian missiles brought down the plane, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, most likely by accident, amid the heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.
The Iranian military’s statement said the plane “took the flying posture and altitude of an enemy target” as it came close to an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps base. It said that “under these circumstances, because of human error,” the plane “came under fire.”
The military said it would undertake “major reform in operations of all armed forces” to make sure that such an error never happened again. It said Revolutionary Guards officials had been ordered to appear on state media and give the public a full explanation.