Iran admits to having downed UIA passenger plane, says it was by mistake

UNTV News   •   January 11, 2020   •   344

A view of victims’ possessions around the wreckage after an Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 carrying 176 people crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, killing everyone on board, in Shahriar, Iran, 08 January 2020. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

TEHRAN — Iran admitted on Saturday that its armed forces had downed a Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet with 176 civilians on board and said it had been an involuntary human error.

The Iranian military had been denying their responsibility in the tragedy – which took place on Tuesday, shortly after the UIA flight PS752 took off from Tehran airport – for the past two days after several NATO members, spearheaded by Canada, said they had intelligence suggesting the plane crash was not due to a technical error, but rather had been brought down by ballistic missiles.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.”

Rouhani said in a separate post that the investigation into the circumstances that led to the tragic error would continue.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard said in a statement that the mistake was made in the context of a “very delicate crisis situation,” claiming that the Boeing 737 had flown close to a IRG military center with the “altitude and flight position of an enemy target.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, also took to Twitter to express his regret for the incident and partially blamed it on the United States’ “adventurism.”

“A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Zarif wrote. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”

The crash occurred in the context of a targeted missile attack against two US bases in Iraq, Tehran’s retaliation for the assassination of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, via drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Iran warned the US in advance of this limited response, thus avoiding any casualties.

On Friday, the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzade, ruled out the possibility that the airliner had been shot down by the army.

“One thing is for certain, this airplane was not hit by a missile,” Abedzadeh said during a press conference in Tehran held in response to earlier remarks by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying his government had evidence indicating that the cause of the crash that killed all 176 passengers was a missile strike.

On Saturday, it was also revealed that 57 passengers onboard the aircraft were Canadian nationals, instead of the 63 that had been initially reported. EFE-EPA

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US soldiers injured in Iran’s attack on Iraqi military bases

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020

US soldiers stand next to the damage caused by Iran’s missile attack inside Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, 14 January 2020. EPA-EFE FILE/STR

Washington, DC — Eleven United States soldiers were injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian bombing of a military base in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani in a targeted strike, the US Central Command said in a statement Thursday.

Initially, the Pentagon had said that the attack had not caused any injuries but now, after re-evaluating the victims, it has identified some symptoms of possible concussions due to the force of the impact of the missiles.

“While no US service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” Centcom spokesperson Bill Urban said in a statement.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” in the days following the attack, eight soldiers were transported from the Al Asad air base in western Iraq to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, while three others were sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for follow-on screening, the official said.

“When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening,” he added.

After the attack on the air base, Iran warned that it was only the beginning of a series of retaliatory actions it would take to avenge the death of Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force and a highly respected figure in the Persian county, in a US targeted strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

At the time, US President Donald Trump chose not to respond to the Iranian offensive with military force and said in a speech to the nation that he would impose more sanctions against Iran.

Those sanctions were directed against eight senior Iranian officials, including Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani, as well as against the country’s steel, iron, aluminum and copper industry.

“The United States is targeting senior Iranian officials for their involvement and complicity in Tuesday’s ballistic missile strikes,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said in a statement outlining the sanctions.

“We are also designating Iran’s largest metals manufacturers, and imposing sanctions on new sectors of the Iranian economy including construction, manufacturing, and mining,” he added.

Tehran and Washington, which have had no diplomatic relations since 1979, have experienced multiple crises since Trump ordered the US’ exit from a landmark multilateral agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program in 2018.

The current escalation of tension coincides with the downing of a Ukrainian aircraft by the Islamic Republic, which caused the death of all 176 people aboard. EFE-EPA

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Iranian foreign minister to secure safety of Filipinos in Iran amid tension

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 16, 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in talks with Filipino officials on Tuesday (January 14) to assure the safety of Filipinos in Iran.

Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo C. Santos, arranged and facilitated talks between Presidential Adviser for Overseas Filipino Workers (PAOFW) Secretary Abdullah Mama-o and the Iranian Foreign Minister to discuss the safety of Filipinos amid the tension between the United States and Iran.

The talks also aims to “ensure their safe passage in the event of worsening tensions and armed confrontation.”

Meanwhile, the first batch of repatriated Filipinos from Iraq arrived on Wednesday (January 15).

“The first batch of Filipinos (11 adults and 2 children) have been successfully repatriated from Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq,” according to the statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).—AAC

First batch of Filipinos repatriated from Iraq to arrive in PH Wednesday

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The first batch of Filipino workers repatriated from Iraq will arrive on Wednesday afternoon, January 15, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement, 13 Filipinos evacuated from Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq will arrive in Manila.

The DFA said the first group from Baghdad, comprised of seven adults and two minors were supposed to arrive on Tuesday but was held by Iraqi immigration officials at the Baghdad International Airport for “baseless allegations of visa fraud.”

The second group is composed of four adults coming from Erbil, north of Baghdad.

The department said the repatriated Filipinos will be landing in Doha, Qatar before flying to Manila. They are scheduled to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 at 4:10 p.m.

“The repatriates arriving today comprise the first batch of Filipinos coming home after the government ordered mandatory repatriation,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said in a statement.

“More Filipinos from affected areas are expected to come home in the coming weeks,” Arriola added.

Alert Level 4, which mandates mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq, was raised on January 8, 2020, due to growing security threats in the Middle East.

The tension grew after top Iranian military commander Qassem Solemanei was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

Iran retaliated on January 8 by launching a series of ballistic missile attacks at Iraq’s bases housing US troops. On the same day, around 176 passengers were killed when a Ukrainian plane was mistakenly shot down by Iran while on alert after its missile attacks on US forces in Iraq.

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