Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Gov’t braces for protests after admitting plane shot down

Published:Monday | January 13, 2020 | 12:39 AM
People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash at the gate of Amri Kabir University  in Tehran, Iran, where some of the victims of the crash were students, on Saturday.
People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash at the gate of Amri Kabir University in Tehran, Iran, where some of the victims of the crash were students, on Saturday.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) :

Iran deployed riot police in the capital on Sunday, expecting possible protests after its Revolutionary Guard admitted to accidentally shooting down a passenger plane at a time of soaring tensions with the United States.

Riot police and plainclothes officers could be seen massing in Vali-e Asr Square in Tehran as calls circulated for protests later in the day. A large black banner unveiled in the square bore the names of those killed in the plane crash.

The plane crash on early Wednesday killed all 176 people on board, mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians. After initially blaming a technical failure, authorities finally admitted to accidentally shooting it down in the face of mounting evidence and accusations by Western leaders.

The plane was shot down as Iran braced for retaliation after firing ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing American forces.

The ballistic missile attack, which caused no casualties, was a response to the killing of Gen Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a US airstrike in Baghdad.

Iranians angry

Iranians have expressed anger over the downing of the plane and the misleading explanations from senior officials in the wake of the tragedy. A candlelight ceremony late Saturday in Tehran turned into a protest, with hundreds of people chanting against the country’s leaders — including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and police dispersing them with tear gas.

Iranian media, meanwhile, focused on the admission of responsibility for the crash, with several newspapers calling for those responsible to apologise and resign.