The latest satellite images, taken Thursday, January 9, showed the area around the crash site of the Ukrainian plane that crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran, Iran, killing all 176 people on board.
READ MORE: U.S. President Donald Trump is publicly voicing suspicion that Iran may have accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner.
"Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side," Trump said of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. "Some people say it was mechanical. Personally, I don’t think that’s even a question."
Iranian officials have maintained the Boeing 737-800, at an altitude of 2,400 meters, suffered a catastrophic engine failure early Wednesday (local time). All 176 people on board the plane bound for Kyiv died, including 63 Canadians.
But government sources tell VOA that U.S. officials have examined satellite data and imagery leading them to believe the airliner, just after taking off from Tehran, was hit by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile after being targeted accidentally.
A U.S. official confirmed to VOA that he is "confident" the plane was shot down by Iran.
"At some point, they’ll release the black box. Ideally, they’ll get it to Boeing [the U.S. company that built the 737-800 airliner],” President Trump said in remarks to reporters in the White House Roosevelt Room Thursday.
Video of the aircraft shows it breaking up midair in a fireball over Iran.
The crash early Wednesday occurred hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers in response to last week’s U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
The head of Iran’s of Civil Aviation Organization denies the plane could have been hit by a missile.
"Scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane and such rumors are illogical," ISNA quoted Ali Abedzadeh as saying.
The governments of Ukraine and Canada are not accepting the initial assessment by Iran that the cause of the crash appeared to be a mechanical issue.
Citing what he called “intelligence from multiple sources,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference on Thursday that “the intelligence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.”
Trudeau added, “This may well have been unintentional.”
Following a phone call Thursday between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Downing Street said there needs to be “a full credible and transparent investigation in what happened.” But British officials added that they did not think the downing of the jet was intentional.
The global security risk company IHS Markit issued a briefing Thursday claiming that the UAL flight was hit by an SA-15 missile fired by a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, who was attending a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York Thursday, said his government has sent a team of experts who are on the ground in Iran, working with their Iranian counterparts to sift through the crash debris for evidence of the cause.
Investigators in Iran said the voice and data recorders from the Boeing 737 aircraft, built in 2016, were recovered from the crash site, a swathe of farmland on the outskirts of the Iranian capital, but that the so-called "black boxes" were damaged and some data had been lost.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board typically participates in investigations of overseas air crashes when a U.S. airline or plane manufacturer is involved. But given the heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran, and the fact that the two sides have no diplomatic relations, it is uncertain whether the NTSB or Boeing would be involved in the investigation of the UIA crash.
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Author: VOA News