Ukrainian airliner was downed by Iranian missile, Canadian PM says

UNTV News   •   January 10, 2020   •   334

One of the engine of the plane lies among 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.

Toronto – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that his government had intelligence indicating that Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) flight PS752 was shot down by an Iranian missile.

“We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional,” the prime minister said in a press conference in Ottawa.

The Iranian government responded to the Canadian prime minister’s comments, with spokesman Ali Rabiei denying in a statement that the commercial airliner had been shot down.

“All these reports are a psychological warfare against Iran … all those countries whose citizens were aboard the plane can send representatives and we urge Boeing to send its representative to join the process of investigating the black box,” Rabiei said.

Trudeau said Canadian officials believe that the supposed shoot-down of the airliner “may have been unintentional.”

The Canadian prime minister refused to answer questions from reporters about whether Canada considered the United States the ultimate party responsible for the accident because of Washington’s confrontation with Tehran after the killing of top Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Jan. 3 by a US drone at the Baghdad airport.

Trudeau said it was “too soon to be apportioning blame” for the crash or “drawing any conclusions” about what happened to the airliner.

“The families of the victims and all Canadians want answers. I want answers. That means closure, transparency, accountability and justice,” Trudeau said. “This government will not rest until we get that.”

UIA flight PS752, which was headed from Tehran to Kiev, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members.

Sixty-three Canadians were aboard the Boeing 737-800, which crashed just outside Tehran.

The plane was also carrying 82 Iranians; 11 Ukrainians, including two passengers and nine crew members; 10 Swedes; four Afghans; three Germans; and three Britons.

The Boeing 737-800 went down shortly after Iran fired dozens of missiles at bases in neighboring Iraq used by the US military in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing.

“It is now more important than ever that we know exactly how such a tragedy could have happened,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said his government asked Iran to permit Canadian investigators to participate in the crash investigation, but Tehran has not agreed to do so even though Iranian officials demonstrated an “openness” to the idea.

“Canadians have questions and they deserve answers,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister held his press conference in the capital not long after US President Donald Trump said he had “suspicions” about what happened to the Boeing 737-800.

“It’s a tragic thing when I see that, it’s a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake on the other side,” the US president said.

Earlier in the day, Iranian Civil Aviation Organization director Ali Abedzadeh told the ISNA news agency that the plane was not shot down.

“Scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumors are illogical,” Abedzadeh said.

Abedzadeh said eyewitnesses saw the UIA plane “on fire” before it went down and the pilots did not make any emergency calls before attempting to return to the airport.

“Several domestic and foreign flights were flying in Iranian space at the same altitude of 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). The issue of the missile’s impact on the aircraft cannot be true in any way,” Abedzadeh said.

The Boeing 737-800 took off early Wednesday and crashed minutes into its flight.

Canada is home to more than 250,000 people of Iranian descent. Many of the Canadian victims of the UIA crash were families and students who had traveled to Iran for the holidays. EFE


PH Navy ships arrive in Oman for repatriation amid Middle East tensions

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 7, 2020

The Philippine Navy ships, BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS16), have arrived in Oman to help in the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the tensions in the Middle East.

The ships arrived at Sultan Qaboos Port late on Wednesday afternoon (February 5).

In a statement, Philippine envoy to Oman, Ambassador Narciso Castañeda said the navy contingent are “all safe and sound” upon arriving in Oman.

“The troops are very happy and in high spirits since this event serves as another milestone for our Navy that we can already transcend across the deep waters of Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea,” he said.

He also assured that the embarked sailors and marines “are ready to assist and support the government effort in repatriating our unsung heroes, the OFWs in this Middle East conflict.”—AAC

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


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


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