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Iranian investigators say Ukrainian flight was on fire even before crash

The crash occurred hours after Iran launched missile attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq, leading some to speculate that the plane may have been hit

Reuters  |  Dubai 

Iran attacks US military base
Photo: Reuters

A Ukrainian airliner was on fire immediately before it crashed southwest of Tehran, killing all 176 on board, according to an initial report by Iranian investigators.

The Ukrainian Airlines Boeing 737-800, flying to Kiev and carrying mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians, crashed shortly after taking off on Wednesday from Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport.

The report, by Iran's civil aviation organisation, cited witnesses on the ground and in a passing aircraft flying at high altitude as saying the jet was on fire while still aloft.

The three-year-old Boeing jet, which had its last scheduled maintenance on Jan. 6, encountered a technical problem shortly after take-off and started to head towards a nearby airport before it crashed, the report said.

The technical problem was not specified in the report.

However, a Canadian security source told Reuters there was evidence one of the jet's engines overheated.

The crash occurred hours after launched missile attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq, leading some to speculate that the plane may have been hit.

Five security sources - three Americans, one European and the Canadian - who asked not to be named, told Reuters the initial assessment of Western intelligence agencies was that the plane had suffered a technical malfunction and had not been brought down by a missile.

In Kiev, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the government was considering several possible causes of the

In a television statement Zelenskiy asked people to refrain from speculation, conspiracy theories and hasty evaluations regarding the crash. He also declared Jan. 9 a day of national mourning.

He said that he would speak by telephone with the Iranian president to step up cooperation into the reason for the crash.

First Published: Thu, January 09 2020. 11:43 IST
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