Iran's military acknowledged Saturday that it “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jet that crashed earlier this week on the the same night that Iran launched retaliatory missile attacks on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.
Iran had been maintaining since the crash early Wednesday that the Boeing 737-800 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines had experienced technical failure, bringing down the jet and killing all 176 people aboard.
A statement from Iran's military on Saturday said the jet was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard.
The statement cited the heightened tensions with the United States that followed the killing last week of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military said.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter soon after the military statement was issued. He expressed condolences to the victims’ families and called for a "full investigation."
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a statement saying the investigation of the crash should continue and the “perpetrators” should be brought to justice. Iran, in its statement Saturday, said those responsible for the missile attack on the plane would be prosecuted.
Pressure had been building on Iran to acknowledge it downed the jet after U.S. and allied intelligence already concluded that Iran was responsible. Officials in Iran repeatedly had been ruling out it was a missile strike.