A UKRAINIAN passenger plane has crashed near Iran’s Tehran airport – killing all 176 on board – as footage of the jet on fire before it hit the ground sparks fears it was shot down.
Three Brits were among the dead as the Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines jet came down just hours after Iran launched more than a dozen missiles in an attack on two US military bases in Iraq.
Iran’s official news agency said the Boeing 737 crashed near Tehran Airport after experiencing “technical problems”.
Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation authority, claimed one of its engines caught fire, causing the pilot to lose control.
But the aircraft was new in 2016 and was last checked on 6 January 2020, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Horrifying footage posted online shows the passenger plane engulfed in flames as it went down.
The aircraft had 167 passengers and nine crew members on board the single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner.
There were 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, 10 Swedes, three Germans and three Brits on board the doomed jet, Ukraine’s foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko confirmed.
There were also 11 Ukrainians and four Afghans aboard, he added.
The Foreign Office has not yet officially confirmed if any British nationals were on the plane.
‘SHOT DOWN’ FEARS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy today said he has instructed prosecutors to open criminal proceedings, and the black box flight recorders have reportedly been found.
The crash came just hours after Iran launched at least 15 missiles at two US bases housing American and British troops in Erbil and Al Asad.
It is feared the plane may have been shot down by nervous Iranian defences in the aftermath of the attacks.
The strikes were codenamed Operation Martyr Soleimani – in retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in a US air raid last week.
Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif called the attacks “self-defence”.
Donald Trump tweeted “All is well!” hours after the attacks but it is not yet known how many people were killed or injured.
A statement will be released later today.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has condemned the missile barrage and urged Tehran “not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks”.
Flight data shows the plane reached an altitude of 2.4 km and then suddenly disappeared.
The three-year-old plane stopped sending data almost immediately after it took off, according to website FlightRadar24.
Harrowing pictures show victims being lined up in body bags at the scene and their possessions collected in a field nearby.
Some charred remains of the aircraft had fallen in or close to a residential area.
The US Federal Aviation Administration had earlier barred commercial flights from entering Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
This week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to hint he was threatening another Lockerbie bombing as Tehran-backed Iraqi militias vowed to “send American soldiers back in coffins.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement: “My sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of all passengers and crew.”
It was over Ukraine that a Malaysia Airlines Flight was shot down by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 killing all 298 passengers and crew.