BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jan. 11
By Elnur Baghishov - Trend:
Iran's Air Defense System, located 19 kilometers from where the Ukrainian aircraft was shot down, evaluated the aircraft as a cruise missile, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said, Trend reports via Fars News Agency.
After the Iranian attack on the US military base in Iraq, the entire air defense system in Iran was made fully operational, taking into account flights of US military aircraft in Iraqi airspace, Hajizadeh said.
In this regard, an air defense system was installed near Bidghana in Tehran's vicinity, the commander said.
The operator of the air defense system was informed that cruise missiles were launched at Iran and at that moment, the operator had 10 seconds to verify the data for being true or false, Hajizadeh said, noting that there were communication problems, thus the fire order was given.
Following the recent tensions between the US and Iran, and the assassination of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, the operator repeatedly asked the IRGC to stop flights across the country, Hajizadeh said.
Hajizadeh noted that the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization was not informed about the situation.
The IRGC Aerospace Force was the party who had shoot the aircraft and had information about what happened, he said.
Though the operator of the Air Defense System, located in Tehran's vicinity, repeatedly asked the IRGC to suspend flights in the country's airspace, the relevant IRGC structures did not inform the country's leadership, the CAO and airline companies, the commander said.
Hajizadeh noted that he informed officials right after the incident.
A Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane with 167 passengers (including Iranian and foreign citizens) and 9 crew members on board crashed Jan. 8, after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.
The plane was heading for Kyiv, Ukraine's capital. The plane took off at 06:12 (GMT+3:30), and at 06:18, it lost connection with the dispatcher center. The plane crashed at 6:22.
Following the investigation, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Iran released a statement saying that the Ukrainian aircraft was unintentionally shot down by Iran.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani expressed regret over the tragic incident.
"Iran's armed forces were on alert after the assassination of Qassem Soleimani and the US threats, so an unfortunate human error led to huge tragedy and innocent people have died," said Rouhani.