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Iran chose not to shoot down intruding US plane: Cmdr.



Following Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet, a senior Iranian commander says Iran was legally entitled to shoot down a US military plane, which had actually violated the country’s airspace last year, but avoided a hasty measure to contribute to regional stability.

“[We] had the right to destroy the plane because it had entered Iran illegally” but Iran did not do so to help regional stability, the commander of Iran’s Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base, Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, said on Saturday.

In September, 2014, an A300 Airbus airplane, chartered by the United Arab Emirates’ Fly Dubai airline and flying from the US airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan, was forced to land in the port city of Bandar Abbas in southern Iranian province of Hormozgan, with over 100 American military personnel on board.

Iranian officials first asked the plane to turn around but then ordered it to land at Bandar Abbas airport when they were told that the plane did not have enough fuel to return to Afghanistan.

The plane had initially presented itself as a civilian one, but Iran had concluded that the aircraft had been a military one, since it was carrying military personnel involved in military operations in Afghanistan.

A combination picture taken from video shows a Russian war plane crashing in flames in a mountainous area in northern Syria after it was shot down by Turkish fighter jets near the Turkish-Syrian border November 24, 2015. (Reuters Photo)

  Esmaili further said the first measure to deal with any intruding fighter or civilian aircraft is not to shoot it down.

“In order to [help] establish stability, security and peace in the region, the last measure should not be used as the first one,” the commander said, underlining the need to “avoid hasty measures.”

Esmaili then pointed to Turkey’s recent downing of a Russian jet and said, “The violation of Turkey’s airspace has not been proved yet and NATO and Russia are examining the issue.”

Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M jet inside Syria on Tuesday, claiming that the aircraft violated the Turkish airspace. Russia rejects Turkey’s claim, saying it did not enter the country’s skies.

The aircraft’s two pilots ejected as it was going down in flames. One of them was killed by militants in Syria, while the second was picked up by the Syrian army.

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