…As all 176 aboard perish
Associated Press has reported that a Ukrainian airliner carrying 176 people crashed on the outskirts of Tehran during a takeoff attempt Wednesday hours after Iran launched its missile attack on U.S. forces, scattering flaming debris and passengers’ belongings across farmland and killing everyone on board.
Though analysts are divided on whether the crash has a link with Iranian retaliatory missile strike against the US killing of its General, Qassam Sulimani via a tactical drone strike at Iraqi Airport few days ago, the Iranian military disputed any suggestion the plane had been blown out of the sky by a missile.
Besides, Iranian aviation authorities said they suspected a mechanical problem brought down the 3½-year-old Boeing 737. Ukrainian officials initially agreed but later backed away and declined to offer a cause while the investigation is going on.
The Ukraine International Airlines jet was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, authorities said. Ukraine Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said they included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians.
Many of the passengers were believed to Iranian Canadians or international students making their way to Kyiv or, beyond that, to Toronto after visiting with family during the winter break. The manifest included several teenagers and children, some as young as 1 or 2.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy cut short a visit to Oman to return to Kyiv and said a team of Ukrainian experts would fly to Tehran to help investigate the crash.
“Our priority is to find the truth and everyone responsible for the tragedy,” Zelenskiy wrote in a Facebook statement.
In Canada, where the crash ranked among the worst losses of life for Canadians in an aviation disaster, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country is “shocked and saddened,” and he vowed the government will work to “ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated and that Canadians’ questions are answered.”
Major world airlines Wednesday rerouted flights crossing the Middle East to avoid danger amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration barred American flights from certain Persian Gulf airspace, warning of the “potential for miscalculation or misidentification” of civilian aircraft.