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Ukrainian plane was ‘unintentionally’ shot down, Iran says

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Military blames human error for mistaking jetliner as ‘hostile target’

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 U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. No one was wounded in the attack on the bases.

A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military centre” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.

“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.

It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Twitter offered “profound regrets, apologies and condolences” to those affected, but also blamed “US adventurism” for the accident.

President Hassan Rouhani tweeted: “Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

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