Ukraine jet crash in Iran raises speculations amidst regional tension

A Ukrainian plane carrying at least 170 people crashed shortly after take off in Tehran killing all on board, Iran state media reported. Aviation expert Stephen Wright said he doubted the airliner had been downed by an Iranian missile but said the evidence suggested something "catastrophic" had taken place.

Iran

A Ukrainian plane carrying at least 170 people crashed shortly after take off in Tehran killing all on board, Iran state media reported.

The Boeing 737 had left Tehran’s international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said, adding that 10 ambulances were sent to the crash site.

“Obviously it is impossible that passengers” on flight PS-752 are alive, the head of Red Crescent, Morteza Salimi, told semi-official news agency ISNA, adding that 170 passengers and crew had boarded the plane.

State news agency IRNA said 167 passengers and nine crew members had boarded the plane, which was operated by Ukraine International Airlines.

Press TV, state television’s English-language news broadcaster, said the plane went down in the vicinity of Parand, a city in Tehran province.

The crash was likely to have been caused by “technical difficulties”, it reported, citing Ali Khashani, spokesman for Imam Khomeini International Airport.

“The plane caught fire after crashing,” said Press TV. A video aired by the state media broadcaster appeared to show the plane already on fire, falling from the sky.

Iranian state television showed footage from the site of the crash of Red Crescent search and rescue teams scouring an open field with debris strewn across it.

Read more: Iran attacks American Base: Will Trump respond?

American airline manufacturer Boeing tweeted: “We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information.”

Escalating tensions

The crash came shortly after Iran said it fired missiles at Iraqi bases in revenge for the killing of one of the Islamic republic’s top military commanders in a US drone strike on Friday.

Following the missile strikes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf after rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq.

The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the US

“The (FAA) issues Notices to Airmen tonight outlining flight restrictions that prohibit US civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,” it said in a statement.

“The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East.”

Iran launched the missiles after a US drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure who headed the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” for the assassination and declared three days of mourning following the assassination which shocked the Islamic republic. The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the US.

Read more: US ties with Iraq & allies take hit after drone strike

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.

Speculation warnings

The Ukrainian president warned against speculation about the causes of the crash.

“I ask everyone to keep from speculating and putting forth unconfirmed theories about the crash,” Zelensky he wrote on Facebook, as he cut short a vacation in Oman and flew back to Ukraine.

Aviation expert Stephen Wright said he doubted the airliner had been downed by an Iranian missile but said the evidence suggested something “catastrophic” had taken place.

“There is a lot of speculation at the moment it has been shot down – I think that is not going to be the case at all,” he said.

“The aircraft was climbing… it was going up in the right direction, which means that something catastrophic has happened.

“It could be a bomb or it could be some sort of catastrophic breakup of the aircraft.”

Wright, a professor of aircraft systems at Tampere University in Finland, said the aircraft was quite new and not one of the the MAX models fitted with anti-stall systems that have been linked with two other recent crashes.

GVS News Desk with additions from news agencies. 


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