Iran arrests several over shootdown of Ukrainian airliner

Jan. 14 (UPI) — Iranian authorities have arrested several people in connection with the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane last week, Tehran’s judiciary commission said Tuesday.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said an unspecified number of people were arrested Tuesday following an initial round of investigation, the semi-official FARS News Agency reported.

The announcement came shortly after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised Tuesday those responsible for shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 with a missile would be held accountable. He also called for the establishment of a special court.

“We will do the follow-up in order to detect all aspects of the event and punish those responsible,” Rouhani said at a meeting with farmers in Tehran.

The airliner crashed on Jan. 8 after takeoff from the airport in Tehran, killing all 176 aboard. Iranian officials initially said a mechanical failure likely caused the crash. Three days later, however, the Iranian government acknowledged it was mistakenly downed by a missile.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said it shot the plane by mistake while it was on high alert after sending missile attacks to two U.S. military bases in Iraq. The strikes were retaliatory after a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani several days earlier.

Tehran denied Monday it tried to cover up the accidental shootdown, saying the initial reaction was based on the best information available at the time. Iranians vented anger over the crash, however, in protests Saturday, Sunday and Monday, during which they demanded the removal of religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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