After repeatedly denying Canadian and allied accusations that it shot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752, Iran announced on Saturday morning local time that it had “unintentionally” shot down the passenger jet in a move that killed all 176 aboard, including 57 Canadians, claiming it mistook the Boeing 737 aircraft for a “hostile target”.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that Canada had gathered intelligence from multiple sources that indicated the “plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile”, a move he said “may well have been intentional”. Trudeau’s assertion followed several media reports earlier in the day that pointed to the United States taking the same position.
After Iran’s admission, Trudeau on Saturday morning said “we will continue working with our partners around the world to ensure a complete and thorough investigations, and the Canadian governments expects full co-operation from Iranian authorities”.
Because Canada does not have formal diplomatic ties to Iran, Ottawa has experienced some struggles in offering consular assistance to families of the 57 Canadian victims, a number that has dropped from the previously reported 63 after Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne updated the total on Saturday.
The plane was shot down early on Wednesday morning just hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. forces in retaliation for Washington’s strikes near Baghdad that killed Iran’s top commander Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani. No Western troops were harmed in Tehran’s attack, a move that was reportedly intentional.
A statement from Tehran carried by state-run media said Flight PS752 was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned towards a “sensitive military centre” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, The Associated Press reported on Saturday. Iran’s military was at its “highest level of readiness” the statement read, amid heightened tensions with Washington.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed “US adventurism” for the incident, according to a translation on Twitter. Zarif, however, offered “profound regrets, apologies and condolences” to those impacted while President Hassan Rouhani stated “Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement that the investigation should continue and this responsible should be brought to justice, demanded Iran compensate victims’ families and requested formal apologies. Tehran did say on Saturday that those behind the attack would be prosecuted.
Of the 167 that died, 57 were Canadian but over 100 had Canada as their final destination, Global Affairs Canada said earlier this week. The aircraft was headed for Kiev and also carried citizens of Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Many of the Canadians who were killed hailed from the academic community, with nearly two dozen universities and colleges impacted. Humber College told The Avro Post on Friday that it was unaware of any ties to the flight.