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Iran Admits To Shooting Down Plane


Human error is what Iranian authorities now say downed a Ukrainian passenger plane on Wednesday morning shortly after takeoff from an airport just outside Tehran. One hundred seventy-six passengers, many of them Iranian, were onboard when the Boeing 737 was accidentally shot down by the Iranian military. And today, protests in the capital.



SIMON: What you're hearing - protesters screaming, dishonor, at security forces. But amidst the anger, there's also, of course, grief and shock. We spoke earlier today with Abas Aslani, editor-in-chief of the Iran Front Page, who was on the line with us from Tehran. He told us about how people feel there today.

ABAS ASLANI: It was a very sad and tragic days and date in Iran. And we have been hearing from many people in this - on social media being very sad about what has happened. One thing is that the incident that the airplane was shot down unintentionally or mistakenly, but the other thing which made people very sad and fed up with the government is that the officials didn't tell the truth to the people, and they kept this from the population. And this has made them very fed up.

But nowadays that it has been announced, we are expecting - and in some parts of the city, vigils are planned and people are going to mourn about them. And many of those passengers on board, even if they were Canadian nationals, but they were both Iranian and Canadian, and majority of about 140 some were mostly Iranians. And the public attention has been very huge to this, and they are very sad about what has happened.

SIMON: Yeah. You made reference to the fact that the Iranian government spent a couple of days denying that this had happened or saying that there had simply been a technical problem. I wonder if this - if people hear the admission from the Iranian government and think, well, congratulations that they're coming forward with this explanation. Or does it make them doubt the Iranian government or, for that matter, the competence of the Iranian armed forces?

ASLANI: Well, people consider that to be two disasters - the first which is the incident which took place, and the second they consider as the, let's say, not informing the public about the real reason or the cause behind this. However, they might think that the second was not less of and not, let's say, less than the first one. But that was the question as well that was asked from the officials, that why didn't they inform the public earlier than that.

And before this, we didn't have any reaction or, let's say, position from military officials. That was mostly coming from civil officials, who were those working in the aviation organization. And they were saying that that was technical problem. Today, an Iranian military senior official said that the civil officials were not aware of the issue and asked why they announced this with such a delay. And after some days, he said that they had some information and that was being processed, and it took them for about 48 hours to decide. And that was on Friday they concluded and decided to announce it to the public. However, this was a very heartbreaking issue to the public.

SIMON: Abas Aslani from Iran Front Page, thank you very much at this difficult time for making the time to speak with us. Thank you so much.

ASLANI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.