The Islamic Republic of Iran retaliated for the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Tuesday night with a barrage of ballistic missiles fired at military bases in Iraq where U.S. soldiers were stationed, though it is believed that no American casualties were caused by the missile strikes.
Just hours after the missiles were fired, however, there were a great many casualties in Iran when a Ukrainian passenger jet that took off from the airport in Tehran crashed just moments later in a fiery explosion that killed all 176 people on board, Breitbart reported.
Given the close timing of the airliner crash with the military action, there is understandably an ongoing debate as to whether the passenger jet was accidentally shot down by Iranian anti-aircraft weapons or if it simply suffered an awfully coincidental malfunction that led to a catastrophic crash.
Adding fuel to that debate is the fact that, according to Reuters, Iran is refusing to hand over the recovered black boxes of the Ukraine International Airlines jet, which was a Boeing 737.
Due to ongoing tensions between Iran and the U.S., the Islamic Republic doesn’t want to deliver the critical records to Boeing, an American company. It remains unclear whether Iran will turn the boxes over to some other nation for proper investigative purposes.
On top of all that, there is also a video circulating on social media that purports to show the aircraft engulfed in flames and trailing fiery debris as it plummeted through the air, though that video has yet to be officially confirmed as the Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed.
At Iran hesitates to hand over the black boxes it recovered from the aircraft wreckage, the Ukrainian government has retracted an initial statement that blamed the crash on an engine failure. Kyiv is now leaving the door open to the possibility that the plane was taken down in act of terrorism or, possibly, an unfortunate mistake by the Iranians.
In a statement, the Ukraine airline’s president said the aircraft was less than four years old and had just undergone maintenance two days prior. “The aircraft was in good condition,” he promised. “We guarantee the serviceability of our aircraft and the high qualification of our crews.”
Additionally, according to the U.K.’s Telegraph, there is concern among aviation experts about the fact that there were no emergency calls that came from the aircraft’s crew, as would typically be the case if there had been an engine failure. Furthermore, the Boeing 737-800 is capable of flying with only one engine, and the lack of a mayday signal from the crew suggests that whatever happened was of a “sudden and violent” nature — like a missile strike or the crew being killed or incapacitated by anti-aircraft fire.
Identifying the victims
As for the 176 individuals who were on board and perished in the crash, the Telegraph noted that 82 were Iranian, 63 were Canadian, and 11 were Ukrainian, including the nine crew members. Others on board included 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British citizens.
Many of those passengers were students or Iranians who held dual citizenship with the other nations.
It will be interesting to see how cooperative Iran will be in turning over the bodies of the victims to the nations from which they hailed, particularly considering the debate over the cause of the crash and demands for a full investigation from the families of some of those killed.