Anger after Iran admits downing plane: All the latest updates

Crowds in Tehran call on leadership to quit after Tehran admits it mistakenly shot down plane with 176 people on board.

Protesters in Iran’s capital are demanding the resignation of senior leaders following the admission by authorities – after initial denials – that Iranian forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board.

Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 bound for Kyiv, Ukraine, crashed minutes after the takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on Wednesday. 

It happened just hours after Iran launched missile attacks on US forces in Iraq in retaliation for the US assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

Here are the latest updates as of Sunday, January 12:

Iran issues more visas to Canadian team probing crash and helping families

Iran issued eight more visas to a team of Canadian officials following the crash of PS752 and most members of the group should be in Tehran on Monday, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said.

Champagne said on Twitter that three officials from the rapid deployment team had flown to Iran on Saturday to set up a base of operations and a further eight would travel on Monday. The last member will arrive in Ankara on Monday.

“We expect [the team] to be fully in place to do their important work by Jan 14,” Champagne said.

IRGC commander says he wished he had died in plane crash

The commander-in-chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said he wished he had been killed along with the passengers on the plane downed by unintentional missile fire.

General Hossein Salami, who was summoned to a closed-door session of the parliament to explain the incident, added he never felt as ashamed as he did after learning about the accident.

“I swear to almighty God that I wished I were in that plane and had crashed with them and had burned but had not witnessed this tragic incident,” he told Iranian MPs, according to state TV.

He assured his force would make up for the deadly mistake, stressing it would not back down from its fight against the United States.

Iran Hossein Salami
Hossein Salami, IRGC commander, told parliament in a closed-door session that he wished he had died in the Ukrainian plane [File: Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters]

IRGC chief says missiles did not aim to kill US troops

Salami also said the IRGC did not aim to kill US troops when it fired a wave of missiles last week at Iraqi bases hosting US forces.

“Our aim was not really to kill enemy soldiers. That was not important,” he told parliament.

“The physical destruction was just because we wanted to say that we are so much more superior to the enemy that we can hit any point we choose,” Salami added in a speech aired on state television.

Rockets hit Iraq base hosting US troops: Military

A volley of rockets slammed into an Iraqi airbase north of Baghdad where US forces have been based, wounding four local troops.

In a statement, the Iraqi military said eight Katyusha-type rockets landed on Al-Balad airbase – 80km (50 miles) north of the capital – wounding two Iraqi officers and two airmen.

The base had held a small US air force contingent as well as American contractors, but a majority had been evacuated following tensions between Washington and Tehran over the past two weeks, military sources told AFP news agency. 

Khamenei calls for better regional cooperation, criticises US

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for increased cooperation among countries in the region to deal with problems he blamed on the US, according to his official website.

“The situation in the region is inappropriate because of … the United States and its friends, and the only way to deal with it is to rely on inter-regional cooperation,” Khamenei told Qatar’s visiting ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. 

France, Germany, UK urge Iran to stick to nuclear deal

The leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany called on Iran to return to full compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and refrain from further violence.

“We urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the agreement and return to full compliance,” the leaders said in a statement issued by the office of French President Emmanuel Macron.

“We call on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation, and we remain ready to engage with Iran on this agenda in order to preserve the stability of the region.”

Second day of Iran protests over downing of plane

Protests erupted across Iran for a second day, piling pressure on the leadership after the military admitted it had mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian airliner.

“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” a group of protesters outside a university in Tehran chanted, according to video clips posted on Twitter.

Posts showed other demonstrators outside a second university and a group of protesters marching to Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square. The videos also showed protests in other cities.

Top Iran security official says Tehran did not hide plane crash cause

A senior Iranian security official said Iran had no intention to conceal the cause of the crash of the Ukrainian airliner, which the Iranian military admitted it had mistakenly shot down.

“From the start, there was no intention to conceal the causes of the accident, especially since its nature and technical characteristics … make it virtually impossible to conceal,” the secretary of Iran’s top national security body, Ali Shamkhani, was quoted as saying by the state-run IRIB news agency.

Salami, the IRGC’s top commander, said “we are more upset than anyone over the incident”, state media reported.

But other officials said Iran’s enemies, a term usually used to refer to Washington and its allies, were exploiting the incident.

“Iran’s enemies want to take revenge on the Guards for a military mistake,” said Ali Shirazi, a representative to the Quds Force, an elite unit.

UK and Germany condemn arrest of UK ambassador

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the arrest of Britain’s ambassador to Tehran, a spokesman from Johnson’s office said in a statement issued after the two leaders spoke.

“On Iran, they discussed the tragic loss of life on the Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet. They condemned Iran’s arrest of the UK ambassador to Tehran as a violation of international law,” the spokesman said.

“The leaders also discussed our shared interests in ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, and reaffirmed their continued commitment to preserving the JCPOA [Iran nuclear deal].”

Dozens of hard-liners gathered outside the British embassy in Tehran chanting “death to England” while calling for the ambassador to be expelled.

“Last night he [Macaire] took part in protests organised people and interfered, which has angered the people. That is why we have gathered here to voice our protest,” said Seifi, who did not give his last name.

Protesters chanted: “This den of espionage must be closed down.”

Pentagon chief: US does not expect more Iranian retaliatory attacks

US defence chief Mark Esper said the Trump administration foresees no more Iranian military attacks in retaliation for the US strike that killed Soleimani.

The Pentagon leader suggested Iran’s government is under internal threat following its downing of the Ukrainian civilian airliner.

“You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government – a different regime,” Esper told CBS’s Face the Nation.

Esper said Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force still presents a threat across the Middle East, but the specific attacks he said were being planned by the late General Soleimani have been “disrupted”.

Esper also said the Trump administration’s offer to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran without precondition still stands.

Iran braces for protests after admitting plane shoot-down

Iran’s security forces deployed in large numbers across the capital expecting more protests after the IRGC admitted to accidentally shooting down the passenger plane.

Riot police in black uniforms and helmets massed in Vali-e Asr Square, Tehran University and other landmarks as calls circulated for protests later in the day. IRGC members patrolled the city on motorbikes and plainclothes security men were also out in force.

People looked down as they walked briskly past the police, hoping not to draw attention to themselves. 

US President Donald Trump, who has expressed support for past waves of anti-government demonstrations in Iran, addressed the country’s leaders in a tweet, saying “DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS.”

“The World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching,” said Trump.

‘Suffering and pain’: Iranians mourn crash dead

Iranians mourned the dead from the plane crash among whom were a large number of young people with promising futures who were studying abroad.

Hundreds of students gathered at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University to honour the victims and protest against authorities for concealing the cause of the crash. They later dispersed peacefully.

“Even talking about it makes my heart beat faster and makes me sad,” said Zahra Razeghi, a Tehran resident. “I feel ashamed when I think about their families.”

“The denial and covering up the truth over the past three days greatly added to the suffering and pain of the families, and me,” she added.

Another individual, who only identified himself as Saeed, said the largely state-run media concealed the cause of the crash for “political reasons”.

“Later developments changed the game and they had to tell the truth,” he said.

Iran summons UK envoy over his attendance at ‘illegal’ rally

Iran summoned the UK envoy to complain about his attendance at an “illegal” rally in Tehran to commemorate those killed in the Ukrainian airliner mistakingly shot down.

“Today, Rob Macaire was summoned because of his unconventional behaviour of attending an illegal rally on Saturday,” the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website reported.

Britain said earlier its ambassador in Iran had been briefly detained on Saturday, which Iranian media said was because he was inciting anti-government protests.

Macaire denied he took part in the demonstration. The British government called the arrest a “flagrant violation of international law”.

Some demonstrators burned British flags during a protest in front of the British embassy in Tehran, witnesses said. They demanded the expulsion of Macaire.

Hardline armed group rallies at UK embassy, demands closure

Iran’s Basij militia staged a demonstration outside the UK embassy in Tehran demanding it be closed, Iranian state media reported.

The rally by the Basij, affiliated to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, followed the brief detention of the UK’s ambassador to Iran during protests after the Iranian military admitted to mistakenly bringing down a civilian airliner in Iran.

Qatar, Iran agree de-escalation ‘only solution’ to tensions

Qatar and Iran agreed that de-escalation was the “only solution” to regional tensions, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said after meeting Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran.

“This visit comes at a critical time in the region, and we agreed with the brothers and with His Excellency the president that the only solution to these crises is de-escalation from everyone and dialogue,” he told a news conference.

“Dialogue is the only solution” to resolve the crises, he said at a time of heightened US-Iranian tensions.

Iran opposition leader says Khamenei ‘directly responsible’ 

A leader of Iran’s opposition Green Movement, Mehdi Karroubi, called on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down over the handling of the downed airliner.

“You, as the commander in chief of the armed forces, are directly responsible for this,” he said in a statement.

“If you were aware and you let military and security authorities deceive people, then there is no doubt you lack the attributes of constitutional leadership.”

Iran ‘deceived the entire world’: Netanyahu 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran “lied intentionally” about the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752.

They knew from the start that they had downed it. They knew that it was an unintentional downing, but lied intentionally,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

Canada’s Trudeau to attend plane crash victim memorial 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to attend what is expected to be the country’s largest memorial to the victims of the Ukrainian airliner shot down in Iran. 

Trudeau’s office confirmed on Saturday that the prime minister will address the memorial service, due to be held in a basketball arena that seats 1,700 people in the western city of Edmonton. Thirteen of the victims lived in Edmonton.

Memorials are also planned on Sunday in Toronto.

Top Iran Guard briefs Parliament over downed jet 

Protests in Tehran after Iran admits shooting down plane

Iran’s top Guards commander, Major-General Hossein Salami, briefed Parliament in a closed-session about Soleimani’s assassination, Iran’s retaliation and the downing of the airliner, semi-official news agency ISNA said.

Reparation for victims depends on ‘Tehran-Kyiv settlement’: IRNA

An official from the Iran Civil Aviation Organisation said reparation for victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 depends on a settlement between Iran and Ukraine “due to the process of the air disaster”, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported. 

Hassan Razaeefar said the plane was insured by a Ukrainian company, which would usually cover the plane, the passengers, and their belongings on board.

“Normally the contractors pay reparation, but taking into consideration the fact that this crash was not normal, the two countries need to reach a settlement,” Razaeefar said, according to IRNA.

Iranian newspapers pay tribute to crash victims

Newspapers in Iran paid tribute to those killed in the Ukrainian passenger plane while heaping pressure on the country’s leadership amid growing public anger.

Read more here

EU’s diplomatic chief urges ‘de-escalation’

The EU’s diplomatic chief criticised Iran for briefly detaining the British ambassador to Tehran, calling for “de-escalation”.

“Very concerned about the temporary detention of the UK Ambassador @HMATehran in Iran. Full respect of the Vienna convention is a must. The EU calls for de-escalation and space for diplomacy,” Josep Borrell tweeted.

UK envoy denies taking part in Iran protest before arrest

Rob Macaire, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Tehran, denied that he took part in a demonstration that erupted at a memorial for the 176 people killed when a plane was shot down.

“Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy,” Rob Macaire wrote on Twitter, saying he left “after 5 minutes, when some started chanting”.

Macaire added he was detained for half an hour “after leaving the area”.

IRGC head ‘briefing parliament’

The chief of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was briefing Parliament over the killing of Soleimani, Tehran’s retaliation and the subsequent downing Ukrainian airliner, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Major General Hossein Salami was addressing the members of the Majles in a closed session, ISNA reported.

Twitter users decry Trump’s Tweets

Twitter users criticised Trump for saying he stood in solidarity with the Iranian people, noting that he previously threatened to attack 52 Iranian sites “very hard” as tensions between the two nations escalated earlier this month.

“How about you sit down and mind your own business?!” one Twitter user said.

“Only on planet Trump can you ban Iranians from visiting their family in the US, deny them access to life-saving drugs, threaten to bomb their cultural heritage, and then claim that you are in solidarity with them,” another Twitter said, referring to US sanctions against Iran and the US administration’s Muslim ban.

Trump ‘monitoring protests’ in Iran

US President Donald Trump told Iranians in tweets in both English and Farsi that he stands by them and is monitoring the demonstrations.

“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you,” he tweeted.

“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added. 

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” he said

Britain’s ambassador to Iran briefly arrested 

The United Kingdom confirmed its ambassador, Rob Macaire, was arrested briefly by Iranian authorities during demonstrations in Tehran. He was accused of “inciting” the protesters in front of the Amir Kabir University on Saturday.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the arrest was a “flagrant violation of international law” and repeated calls for Iran to de-escalate tensions.

“The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment,” Raab said in a statement. “It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards.”

Truth about Iran crash could not be hidden: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy

The findings by Ukrainian experts in Iran meant the truth about the crash could not be concealed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a televised address.

He also said he had agreed with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on the beginning of joint work to decode the black boxes of the Ukrainian plane that was shot down this week. He also urged Ukraine’s international partners to remain united and persistent until the investigation was complete.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies