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Iran announces arrests over downing of plane that killed 176

Arrests over downed jet

Iran said Tuesday that authorities have made arrests for the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane, which killed all 176 people on board and set off protests in the country demanding accountability after officials initially concealed the cause of the crash.

Iran's Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said “some individuals" were arrested after “extensive investigations." His statement on the judiciary's website did not say how many people had been detained or name those arrested.

Iran at first dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the plane, but in the face of mounting evidence officials acknowledged on Saturday — three days after — that its Revolutionary Guard had shot down the plane by mistake as the force braced for a possible military confrontation with the United States.

The plane, en route from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians and 57 Canadians, many of whom were Iranians with dual citizenship. There were several children among the passengers, including an infant.

Iran's president on Tuesday called for a special court with "a ranking judge and dozens of experts" to be set up to probe the incident.

“The responsibility falls on more than just one person," President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech, adding that those found culpable “should be punished.”

“There are others, too, and I want that this issue is expressed honestly,” he said, without elaborating.

Rouhani called the incident "a painful and unforgivable” mistake and promised that his administration would pursue the case “by all means.”

“This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court,” he said.

While Rouhani pointed to mistakes and negligence, he also repeated the government's line that the plane tragedy was ultimately rooted in U.S. aggression.

“It was the U.S. that made for an agitated environment. It was the U.S. that created an unusual situation. It was the U.S. that threatened and took our beloved (Soleimani),” he said.

Rouhani called the government's admission that Iranian forces shot down the plane a “first good step.”

He added that Iranian experts who retrieved the Ukrainian plane's flight recorder have sent it to France for analysis.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard’s aerospace division, said over the weekend his unit accepts full responsibility for the shootdown. He said when he learned about the downing of the plane, “I wished I was dead.”



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