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Iran: Burning jetliner tried to turn back to airport

Iran: Burning jetliner tried to turn back to airport
© Getty Images

Iranian investigators said Thursday that a Ukrainian jet that crashed after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport did not make a radio call for help and was attempting to return to the airport and burning when it went down, according to The Associated Press.

The initial report from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization reportedly did not reach an immediate conclusion as to the cause of the crash, which killed all 176 people on board. In its immediate aftermath, Iranian officials said it was due to a technical malfunction, which their Ukrainian counterparts initially agreed with before saying they would not speculate amid an ongoing probe.

Ukraine has since said it has not ruled out the possibility of an Iranian missile strike bringing down the Boeing 737-800, which Iran has denied.

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The report and available flight-tracking data show that the Ukrainian International Airlines flight, bound for Kyiv, reached nearly 8,000 feet, at which point the report says it encountered an unspecified malfunction, despite the fact that “no radio messages were received from the pilot regarding unusual situations.”

The plane went down at 6:18 a.m., with eyewitnesses reporting that they saw the airplane on fire before it crashed.

Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, have told media in their country that officials are exploring multiple possible explanations for the crash.

“A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main [theories], as information has surfaced on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukrainian media, offering no further information about where the theory had surfaced, according to the AP.

Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for the Iranian armed forces, denied the plane was downed by a missile, calling the claims “psychological warfare” by Iranian opposition groups. The crash occurred shortly after Iranian missile attacks on two air bases housing U.S. troops, for which Tehran swiftly claimed responsibility as retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike.