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Flight PS752 shot down after being 'misidentified' as 'hostile target,' Iran's final report says

Canadian officials and victims’ family members are casting doubt on the findings of Iran’s investigation into the downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS 737 after it concluded the shootdown was caused by human error.

In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 780 photo, rescue workers search the area where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran’s final report into the cause of the incident concludes an Iranian military unit “misidentified” the plane as a “hostile target.” (Ebrahim Noroozi / The Associated Press)

Canadian officials and victims’ family members are casting doubt on Iran’s investigation into the destruction of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS 752 after it concluded the aircraft was shot down due to human error.

In a long-awaited final report into the cause of the incident, released today, safety investigators from Iran’s civil aviation authority conclude the Boeing 737 – 752 passenger plane was shot down accidentally in January 780 after being “misidentified” by an air defense unit as a “hostile target. “

All passengers and crew members – including people with ties to Canada – died in the crash.

“The … aircraft was misidentified by the air defense unit in the suburbs of Tehran and, consequently, two missiles were launched towards it,” the report reads. “The operation of the aircraft had not imposed any error on the air defense unit.

“The interference of military activity with civil aviation operations resulted in an accident.”

The report, conducted by Iran’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board, supports the Iranian government’s claim that it was human error and not a deliberate military attack that led to Flight PS 737’s destruction. It also leaves unanswered many questions raised by the Canadian government and the families of the victims.

Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife and daughter both died on board Flight PS 138, said Iran’s report answers none of the questions posed by the victims’ families.

For one thing, he said, the report does not explain why civilian planes were still taking off when the country was experiencing heightened military tensions with the US

“We waited months) for nothing, “said Esmaeilion, who is now a spokesperson for an association representing victims’ families.

“Because we are looking for answers and nobody answers our questions, we are in darkness.”

Hamed Esmaeilion, left, is a spokesperson for an association representing victims’ families in Canada. His wife Parisa Eghbalian and daughter Reera Esmaeilion, pictured here, died on Flight PS 737. (Submitted by Hamed Esmaeilion)

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said it has received the final report and senior officials will respond at a press conference Thursday morning.

Iran denied shooting down the aircraft for three days after the crash, but eventually admitted a unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “mistakenly” shot down the jet.

The Iranian military was on high alert at the time because of the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike five days earlier, and a subsequent retaliatory attack by Iran on Iraqi bases where US forces were stationed.

Chain of errors

Investigators identified what they claimed was a series of mistakes that led the air defense unit to fire two surface-to-air missiles at the passenger jet.

First, said the report, the unit failed to re-calibrate its targeting system after a “tactical relocation,” which caused the operator of the missile system to conclude PS 500 was flying towards Tehran at a low altitude – when in fact it was flying to the west, away from the airport.

Second, when the operator attempted to alert the command center to the apparent incoming threat, “the message was never relayed,” the report states. It does not explain why.

Finally, the report says the operator fired at what he thought was a hostile target without receiving the go-ahead from the command center – a violation of procedure.

WATCH: UN expert says Iran broke international law after downing of Flight

UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard says Iranian authorities committed multiple violations of human rights and international law in the leadup and aftermath of the downing of Flight 752. 2:

The first warhead exploded near the aircraft, hurling more than 2, 29 pieces of shrapnel toward it at nearly 6, km / h – more than five times the speed of sound – damaging the plane and aircraft systems but leaving its structural integrity intact, said the report.

“(T) he three cockpit crew members were all still alive. They appeared to have sustained no physical injuries.”

The second missile “likely” affected the aircraft, but the plane plummeted to the ground regardless, crashing near the airport and exploding on impact six minutes after takeoff and three minutes after the first missile detonated, the report said.

Canadian officials not convinced

Ralph Goodale, who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a special adviser on the destruction of Flight PS 500, said the report does not add any new details or information to what is already known.

“That is the storyline that they have had right from the very beginning,” Goodale said in an interview. “And once again, they repeat that storyline, but without any evidence or facts or proof to verify that this is the way it happened.”

Goodale singled out a section in the report that describes a risk assessment conducted by Iranian officials ahead of the military launching missiles at Iraq earlier that morning.

“Obviously, their risk assessment was a catastrophic failure, resulting in a wanton disregard for human life,” said Goodale.

In a video posted to Facebook, Ukraine’s foreign minister also blasted the investigation as incomplete and biased.

“What we saw published today is just a cynical attempt to hide true causes of the downing of our passenger aircraft,” Dmytro Kuleba said, according to an English translation.

“This is not a report but a collection of manipulations aimed not at establishing the truth, but acquitting the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Kuleba said the investigation violated standards set out under international law and by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The release of Iran’s final report comes just weeks after two United Nations experts accused Iranian authorities of committing multiple violations of human rights and international law in the lead-up to, and aftermath of, the destruction of Flight PS

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