Published on Monday, January 13, 2020

Protests in Tehran after Iran admits shooting down passenger plane

Mass protests have taken place in Tehran following an admission by Iran's government that it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 onboard, while firing missiles at a US air base in Iraq.

Riot police used tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters in Azadi Square on Sunday after a vigil to mourn those who died in the crash turned into an anti-government demonstration.

British ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, was also arrested as he was leaving another vigil - on Saturday - in front of Amir Kabir university. He was later released following international condemnation of his arrest.

Protestors within Iran have called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted.

The Ukraine International Airlines jet that was shot down had passengers from around the world on board, including three Britons, but also many Iranian nationals and people of Iran heritage.

On Sunday, the chief commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, Hossein Salami, apologised for unintentionally shooting down the Ukrainian plane and asked for forgiveness.

"We did made a mistake. Some of our compatriots were martyred because of our mistake but it was unintentional," he said. "In my all lifetime I haven't been as sorry as much as now. Never." 

"I wish I had been on board and burned with them."

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said his country 'deeply regrets this disastrous mistake' and his 'thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families'.

Iran previously denied US claims that an Iran missile had struck the plane before admitting the mistake Saturday.

The British Department for Transport is advising airlines not to enter Iran or Iraqi air space.

The British Airline Pilots Association welcomed the advice. "We expect all UK airlines to follow that advice," it said.


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