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New video shows 2 Iran missiles hitting Ukrainian airliner that killed 176 people

Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-900. (Eric Salard/Flickr)
January 15, 2020

New security camera footage shows two missiles launching from an Iranian military site and striking a Ukrainian airliner last week, killing all on board.

The footage, provided to the New York Times for confirmation on Tuesday, shows the missiles streaking into the night sky approximately 30 seconds apart and intercepting Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8.

The first missile could be seen firing towards the plane, which was about eight miles away at the time. The plane was able to turn around and change course before the second missile could be seen launching.

The video, which confirmed two missiles hit the plane, may explain why the plane’s emergency transponder stopped communicating before the plane went down. The first missile impact reportedly disabled the transponder and left it without communication for the 23-second gap before the second missile further crippled the plane.

The airliner appeared to survive the initial impacts of both missiles and did not immediately go down. Instead, the plane could be faintly seen, struggling to circle back toward Tehran’s International Airport. Moments later the plane appeared to explode and the fiery wreckage could be seen falling towards the earth.

The airliner narrowly missed the village of Khalaj Abad when it crashed.

The new footage fills in some of the details revealed by prior footage submitted to the New York Times.

Iran initially denied responsibility for shooting down the plane. The airliner had taken off within hours after Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles on U.S. targets in neighboring Iraq.

Iran eventually admitted responsibility for “unintentionally” downing the plane, citing “human error.” The Iranian military had been at a high level of readiness, in anticipation of a potential U.S. retaliatory strike that never came.

The Iranian military reportedly misidentified the plane as an incoming cruise missile.

The plane was climbing at a rate of about 2,000 feet per minute from the airport when the missiles were fired. The particular Ukrainian airliner reportedly followed the regular takeoff route from the airport, as had 19 other planes that took off from Tehran in the hours after the Iranian missile attacks on the U.S. bases.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who commands Iran’s Aerospace Force and oversees much of Iran’s missile capabilities, took responsibility for the mistake on Saturday.

“When I became sure that the news was true I wished for death,” Hajizadeh said.

He reportedly informed his superiors of the mistake almost immediately after learning of it on Wednesday, though the Iranian government maintained its denials until Saturday.

The Iranian government has announced arrests in the investigation into the incident and President Hassan Rouhani instead suggested others also shared blame for shooting down the airliner.

Rouhani has called for a special court to investigate and warned that the results of the investigation would be subject to intense international scrutiny. Many of the 176 people aboard the plane were Canadian and Ukrainian citizens.