Wednesday, February 21

US officials believe Ukrainian airliner shot down



US officials say it’s highly likely Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people on board. Donald Trump has said he had a terrible feeling that it may have been shot by mistake.

US officials told various local media and news agencies on Thursday that they believed a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran on Wednesday morning was likely brought down accidentally by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, US President Donald Trump said he had suspicions that somebody could have made a mistake, without going into detail.

Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question, Trump said, adding that something very terrible happened.

All 176 people on board were killed when the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed outside the Iranian capital shortly after taking off in the early hours of Wednesday.

One US official cited by Reuters said US satellites had detected the launch of two surface-to-air missiles shortly after the plane took off.

The crash happened only hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi military bases where US troops were being housed.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran soared following the US killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last week.

Iran has denied it is responsible for the plane crash, which it says was likely caused by a technical malfunction. The assessment from US officials came as Tehran released an initial report into the incident that said the pilots did not put out a call for help, but had been trying to return to the airport when the aircraft went down.