Spy satellite imagery suggests that a Ukraine-bound Boeing airliner that crashed shortly after takeoff in Iran was shot down by an Iranian missile.
The report came as President Donald Trump said he does not believe the plane crashed as the result of mechanical error.
“It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood,” Trump said of the crash, which occurred soon after Iran launched missile attacks on bases in Iraq that house U.S. and coalition forces
Spy satellite imagery suggests that a Ukraine-bound Boeing passenger airliner that crashed shortly after takeoff in Iran on earlier was shot down by an Iranian missile, NBC News reported Thursday.
Other reports also said it seemed like the airliner was shot down on Wednesday local time by a missile fired by mistake by Iranian forces.
The report came as President Donald Trump said he does not believe that the crash of the plane carrying nearly 180 people near Iran’s capital Tehran was the result of mechanical failure.
Iranian officials had originally suggested that the Boeing 737-800 fell from the skies because of a mechnical failure.
“It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood,” Trump said of the crash, which occurred soon after Iran launched missile attacks on bases in Iraq that house U.S. and coalition forces.
“Someone could have made a mistake.”
“I have a feeling that — it’s just some very terrible, something very terrible happened, very devastating,” he said.
Most of the passengers on the flight were from Iran and Canada.
Newsweek noted that images that began circulating on Wednesday shows what looked to be fragments of a Tor M-1 missile that were said to be found in a Tehran suburb.
Iran’s head of civil aviation dimissed reports of that country’s missile shooting down the plans as “illogical rumors,” according to an state-run news outlet.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said, “It sounds pretty convincing that the plane that was shot down that killed 167 people was shot down by Iranians.”
Asked what the U.S. response should be to that if true, Inhofe paused and then said, “I don’t want to interfere with the decisions that are now being made by the President.”
“I’m quite sure I’ll be talking to him because we talk on a regular basis about things like that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said that it Iranian missiles had shot down the plane “it would be an outrage.”
“What I would do if I were the President would be to reach out to the Canadian people and the Prime Minister and try to rally the world around the idea that we shouldn’t accept 40 more years of state sponsored terrorism,” Graham said.
Iran’s civil aviation authority, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC, said earlier Thursday that the plane departed Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport at 6:13 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lost communication with air traffic controllers five minutes later.
Ali Abedzadeh, head of the National Aviation Authority, said in a statement that eyewitnesses had reported that the Kyiv-bound plane was on fire immediately before the crash.
Aviation safety experts, including former government crash investigators, reported that the sudden loss of communication and lack of a distress signal was highly suspicious.
The crash occurred hours after Iran launched retaliatory missile strikes on U.S. positions in Iraq for the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, timing which prompted speculation that a stray Iranian missile may have downed the passenger plane.
Under international law, the country in which the crash occurs leads the investigation, but because the plane was U.S.-made, federal investigators and Boeing would normally be involved.
An Iranian official told local news media on Wednesday that Iran did not plan to share the information with Boeing or the U.S.
The country may send the recovered black boxes, which contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings, abroad for analysis but Iran has not yet said where they could be sent. Iranian aviation officials said the black boxes were recovered by damaged by fire in the crash.
The final cause of the crash is still not known and it can take more than a year for investigators to make those determinations.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed to uncover the “truth,” and said investigators from Ukraine had already traveled to Iran to assist the inquiry there.
Ukraine’s embassy in Iran originally said an engine problem likely caused the crash, and ruled out terrorism or a rocket as possible causes. But that statement later was taken down from the embassy’s web site.
The plane was the model which preceded the Boeing 737 Max, the type that has been grounded worldwide since mid-March in the wake of two fatal crashes. The plane was delivered new to Ukrainian International Airlines in 2016, and was crewed by three experienced pilots, according to the carrier.
Boeing said in a statement that it is “ready to assist in any way needed.