Iran arrests over shooting down of Ukrainian plane

UNTV News   •   January 14, 2020   •   180

A handout photo made available by Iran’s Presidential Office shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivering a speech during a meeting with farmers, in Tehran, Iran, 14 January 2020. EFE/EPA/IRAN’S PRESIDENT OFFICE HANDOUT

Tehran – Iran has made several arrests linked to the shooting down of a Ukrainian plane last week which killed 176 civilians last week, the judiciary said Tuesday.

“Thorough investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested,” judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a press conference, adding no further details.

A Boeing 737 belonging to Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) bound for Kiev was shot down shortly after taking off from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on 8 January when it was mistaken for a cruise missile, according to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The tragedy occurred amid a sharp escalation of tension between the United States and Iran.

Iran was expecting a retaliatory attack to its bombing hours earlier of a military base used by US troops in Iraq.

The downing of the plane, initially denied by the Iranian authorities, has caused a backlash among Iranians and has led in recent days to several protests against the country’s Islamic system.

Due to the magnitude and controversy of this case, Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said “a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts” would lead investigations into the error that caused the downing.

“This is not a normal case and the whole world will follow it in our court,” said the president. He added that a “single individual” could not be blamed for the tragedy.

In this regard, he said that the culprit is not only the person who pressed the button and fired the missile, according to a statement from the Iranian Presidency.

“The government will continue its efforts until all aspects of the incident are investigated and to ensure that those involved are punished and that these things will not happen again,” he said.

Rouhani blamed the US in his speech, which, he said, shifted the environment and made the situation abnormal.

He added that did not mean the root causes of the accident should not be addressed.

Some 167 passengers were traveling on the plane, including 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians, although the latter mostly with dual citizenship. The nine crew members were Ukrainian. 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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