Iran retrieves 19 seconds of cockpit conversation, other data from before missile hit Ukrainian jetliner

The shootdown took place after Iran's ballistic missile attack targeting US soldiers in Iraq, in response to an American drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani

The Associated Press August 23, 2020 15:05:21 IST
Iran retrieves 19 seconds of cockpit conversation, other data from before missile hit Ukrainian jetliner

Tehran: Iran has retrieved some data, including a portion of cockpit conversations, from the Ukrainian jetliner accidentally downed by the Revolutionary Guard forces in January, killing all 176 people on board, an Iranian official said Sunday.

That’s according to a report on the website of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, which described the official's remarks as part of the final report that Tehran plans to issue on the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

The development comes months after the 8 January crash near Tehran. Iranian authorities had initially denied responsibility, only changing course days later after Western nations presented extensive evidence that Iran had shot down the plane.

The shootdown happened the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting US soldiers in Iraq, its response to the American drone strike that killed Guard General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on 3 January.

At the time, Iranian troops were bracing for a US counterstrike and appear to have mistaken the plane for a missile. Iran, however, has not acknowledged that, only saying that after the ballistic missile attack, its air defense was sufficiently alert and had allowed previously scheduled air traffic to resume — a reference to the Ukrainian plane being allowed to take off from Tehran.

The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Captain Touraj Dehghani Zangeneh, said on Sunday that the Ukrainian passenger plane’s black boxes have only 19 seconds of conversation following the first explosion, though the second missile reached the plane 25 seconds later. The report quoting him did not elaborate.

He said the first missile explosion sent shrapnel into the plane, likely disrupting the plane’s recorders.

Representatives from the US, Ukraine, France, Canada, Britain and Sweden — countries whose citizens were killed in the crash — were present during the process to gather data from the recorders, he said.

Last month, an initial report from the Iranian investigation said that a misaligned missile battery, miscommunication between troops and their commanders and a decision to fire without authorisation all led to the fatal downing of the jetliner.

“Data recovery activity was all done with the aim of at safety and preventing similar incidents," Zangeneh said, adding an appeal against “any political use of the process."

He added that Iran’s airspace is now “safe and ready” for international flights.

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