The airliner had turned back toward the airport before it crashed, minutes after takeoff, Iranian officials reported. The flight data recorders were recovered but said to be damaged.
WASHINGTON — United States intelligence agencies believe that at least one Iranian missile accidentally brought down a Ukrainian jetliner over Iran this week, American officials said Thursday, a tragic coda to the escalated military conflict between Washington and Tehran.
Officials had a “high level of confidence” that the Iranians brought down the airliner by mistake, one American official said. The official said that two missiles fired from an Iranian air defense system, the SA-15, shot down the airliner.
The Ukrainian airliner, a Boeing 737-800, went down on Wednesday morning, killing at least 176 people. It had turned back toward the Tehran airport before it crashed in a huge explosion minutes after takeoff, according to an initial Iranian report released on Thursday. The report said that the plane, bound for Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was in flames before it hit the ground but did not send a distress signal.
Although both the United States and Iran now appear to be backing away from a larger military confrontation, the new intelligence suggests that the loss of life from the downing of the plane was a direct result of those heightened tensions between the countries.