Iran’s civil aviation chief has rejected as “illogical rumors” reports that the Ukrainian plane that crashed south of the capital Tehran was hit by missiles.
Head of Iran Civil Aviation Organization Ali Abedzadeh made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Press TV on Thursday, adding, “From a scientific viewpoint, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane.”
“The plane caught fire three minutes into the flight, according to what the witnesses have reported and the data collected from the parts of the airplane,” Abedzadeh told Press TV.
“The pilot tried to return the airplane at the altitude of 8,000 ft., but due to the fire, the airplane crashed and exploded,” he added.
“We can say that the airplane, considering the kind of the crash and the pilot’s efforts to return it to Imam Khomeini airport, didn’t explode in the air. So, the allegation that it was hit by missiles is totally ruled out,” the official noted.
Asked if the cause of the crash was to be determined after a probe, Abedzadeh said, “According to international regulations, it is the responsibility of the country, where the incident happened, to probe into the incident. So Iran Civil Aviation Organization is in charge.”
“But because the airplane was Ukrainian, Ukraine is obliged to cooperate with us, and has started cooperation. Their team of experts has arrived in Tehran, and we have coordinated the issue with them on different aspects. Iranian experts and the Ukrainian ones have had a meeting so that we could determine the cause of the incident in cooperation with the Ukrainian side.”
His remarks came after unnamed American officials claimed that the Ukrainian passenger plane was mostly likely brought down by anti-aircraft missiles.
The unnamed US officials alleged that the Ukrainian airliner, whose crash killed all 176 people aboard, was most likely brought down accidentally by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles.
Earlier on Thursday, Iran’s minister of road and urban development dismissed as “untrue” rumors that suggest the Wednesday crash of the Ukrainian airliner was because of a missile attack.
Mohammad Eslami said the Boeing 737-800 aircraft crashed after encountering a technical malfunction.
Eslami said Iran will not hand over the black boxes recovered from the crash site to Boeing or any other countries.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight, en route to Kiev and carrying mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians, crashed hours after Iran fired missiles at bases housing US forces in Iraq, leading some to speculate that the plane may have been hit.
Meanwhile, foreign intelligence sources also believe that the crash – which killed all the 179 on board – was likely caused by a technical malfunction.
Five security sources – three Americans, one European and one Canadian – who asked not to be named, told Reuters that based on initial assessment of Western intelligence agencies, the plane had suffered a technical malfunction and had not been brought down by a missile.
There was evidence one of the jet’s engines had overheated, the Canadian source said.