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Missile may have hit Ukranian plane

Wing of the crashed plane punctured by shrapnel (circle) suspected to be from a missile.
New York: Doubts have been cast over Iranian assertions that a deadly Ukrainian plane crash near Tehran was the result of technical failures, with independent aviation operations experts saying a “shootdown” was the most likely explanation. Iran is facing mounting pressure to explain the destruction of a civilian airliner near Tehran hours after Iranian forces launched missile strikes against US forces.
The crash came three and a half hours after Iran fired a barrage of ballistic missiles at US bases in Iraq in what it said was revenge for the assassination of general Qassim Soleimani.
Iran’s military said it had fired 22 missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops in Erbil and Ain al-Asad. No US or Iraqi troops were killed in the bombardment.
The plane, a Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737 plunged into a nosedive and exploded shortly after take-off from Tehran’s Imam Ayatollah Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday morning. Footage filmed by a local man showed the aircraft trailing fire before it dived into the ground and exploded in a large fireball shortly after 6am local time.
While some aviation experts said it was too early to speculate, the OPS group, an aviation risk-monitoring group, said: “We would recommend the starting assumption to be that this was a shootdown event, similar to MH17– until there is clear evidence to the contrary,” highlighting photos of the crash site which they said “show obvious projectile holes in the fuselage and a wing section.” UIA has also discounted the possibility of technical problems, insisting there was “nothing wrong” with the three-year-old Boeing 737-800, which had undergone a scheduled technical check only two days earlier. “We guarantee the safety of our aircraft and the high qualification of our crews,” a spokesperson said.
 So far, the investigation has been marred by confusion and controversy. Iran has already signalled that it would not be sending the black boxes to Boeing or America. According to Vadim Lukashevich, an independent Russian aviation expert, Iran does not possess the expertise to analyse the flight recorders independently. 
 Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukrainian media that officials were in Iran with a brief to look for any possible missile debris or evidence of a rocket strike. 
Ukrainian investigators may have some difficulty in gathering that evidence. According to Ukrainian media reports, debris from the crash site has already been tampered with and moved — raising doubts about the prospect of an independent investigation. 
Trump suspects Iran shot down plane 
The U.S. increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner on Wednesday, according to multiple U.S. officials. The working theory is based on continuing analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by U.S. military and intelligence.
President Donald Trump on Thursday said he suspected the crash was not due to mechanical issues, indicating that “somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.” “I don’t want to say that because other people have their suspicions,” Trump said, but added, “Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side … not our system...”
“It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood. They could’ve made a mistake. Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question.”
Asked if he thought it was downed by accident, Trump said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know … that’s up to them. At some point they’ll release the black box.”
“Ideally they’d give it to Boeing,” he said, but said giving it to France or “some other country” would be fine, too.

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