Ukraine Names Iran Plane Crash Theories, Including Missile Strike

KIEV (Reuters) -
Debris from a Ukraine International Airlines airplane that crashed after taking off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini Airport is seen on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran, Wednesday. (Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA [West Asia News Agency] via Reuters)

A top Ukrainian security official on Thursday set out what he said were the four main theories for why a Ukrainian airliner crashed in Iran the previous day killing 176 people, including a possible missile strike and terrorism.

Oleksiy Danylov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, made his statement as an initial report by Iranian investigators said the plane, a Boeing 737-800, had been on fire immediately before it crashed.

Ukraine is looking at various possible causes of the crash, including a possible missile attack, a collision, an engine explosion or terrorism, he wrote in a Facebook post.

The crash happened hours after Iran launched missile attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq, leading some to speculate that the plane may have been hit.

But an initial assessment by Western intelligence agencies was that the plane had suffered a technical malfunction and had not been brought down by a missile, five security sources – three Americans, one European and the Canadian – who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

Danylov said Ukrainian investigators in Iran wanted to search the crash site for possible debris of a Russian missile after seeing reports about its possible existence on the internet.

He referred to an unverified image being circulated on Iranian social media purportedly showing the debris of a Russian-made Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile of the kind used by the Iranian military.

“Our (investigative) commission is talking to the Iranian authorities about visiting the crash site and is determined to search for fragments of a Russian Tor air defense missile about which there was information on the internet,” Danylov separately told Ukrainian news site Censor.net.

He said Ukraine would draw on expertise learnt from carrying out its own investigation into the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 over eastern Ukraine, an incident that killed all 298 people on board.

While the cause of the tragedy remained unknown, the disaster could further damage Boeing’s reputation, which has been battered by the furor over two deadly crashes involving a different model of the Boeing jet, the much-newer 737 Max, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months. The uproar led to the firing of the company’s CEO last month.

Boeing extended condolences to the victims’ families and said it stands ready to assist.