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Iranian military says it 'unintentionally' shot down Ukrainian plane

Image: Debris from an Ukrainian plane which crashed as authorities work at
Debris from an Ukrainian plane which crashed as authorities work at the scene in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Copyright Ebrahim Noroozi
Copyright Ebrahim Noroozi
By Phil Helsel and The Associated Press with NBC News World News
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The Iranian military statement reportedly blamed "human error." All 176 people aboard the plane were killed.

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Iran's military admitted it "unintentionally" shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane hours after the country had launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops, Iranian state TV reported.

State TV cited a military statement that blamed "human error."

Based on a preliminary conclusion by the armed forces, "human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster, "Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted.

"Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations," Zarif wrote.

Iran had previously deniedshooting down the Ukraine International Airlines shortly after it took off from Tehran early Wednesday. All 176 people aboard were killed.

Prior to Iran's admission Saturday, U.S. intelligence officials had evidence that the Boeing 737 was shot down by an Iranian missile by mistake, multiple officials have said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his country also had evidence that the plane was shot down.

He said Canadian officials had intelligence from multiple sources, including allies as well as Canada's own intelligence, indicating "the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile." Trudeau said then that it could have been unintentional.

Sixty-three Canadians were among those killed, Ukraine's foreign ministry has said. Also on board were 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 people from Sweden, four from Afghanistan, three Germans and three from the United Kingdom.

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The crash came hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq as retaliation for the killing of a top Iranian general by a U.S. airstrike. There were no casualties from the ballistic missile strikes, authorities have said.

The passenger plane was headed from Tehran to Kyiv, Ukraine, where more than 130 were to change planes to head to Canada, Trudeau has said.

Among those killed was a 9-year-old girl who died with her mother, husband and wife professors, and graduate students. The University of Alberta alone lost 10 people, including professors, students and alumni.

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