Iran announced Saturday that its military "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. The plane was shot down early Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a "hostile target" after it turned toward a "sensitive military center"of the Revolutionary Guard, the AP reports. The military was at its "highest level of readiness," it said, amid the heightened tensions with the US.
"In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit," the military said. It apologized and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies. It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted. The majority of the plane crash victims were Iranians or Iranian-Canadians, but Iranian officials had repeatedly ruled out a missile strike, dismissing such allegations as Western propaganda. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani blamed the shootdown on "threats and bullying" by the US. Iran's acknowledgement of responsibility is likely to renew questions of why authorities did not shut down the country's main international airport and its airspace after the ballistic missile attack, when they feared US reprisals.
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