Trudeau cites US ratcheting up tensions with Iran in plane's downing

Elias Hubbard
January 15, 2020

Earlier on Tuesday, US warned of threats to commercial vessels in and around the Gulf in the wake of its confrontation with Iran.

Tehran has acknowledged shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner by mistake on Wednesday, killing 176 people, hours after it had fired at USA targets in Iraq to retaliate for the killing of General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.

The announcement followed a surge of angry protests in Iran over the downing of the Ukraine International Airlines plane, and after Iran denied for three days that its Revolutionary Guard had shot it down.

Protesters, with students at the forefront, have held demonstrations against the establishment since Saturday, some met by a violent police crackdown.

The extent of the unrest is hard to assess because of limits on independent reporting.

President Hassan Rouhani promised a thorough investigation into the "unforgiveable error" of shooting down the plane, giving a television address today, the latest in a series of apologies from a leadership that rarely admits mistakes.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said "some individuals" had been detained after "extensive investigations", without saying how many.

Mr. Ismaili, the judiciary spokesman, said about 30 people have been arrested over the recent days of protests.

"Heightened military activity and increased political tensions in this region continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels", the USA said in a maritime warning. The victims include mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, and four British nationals.

He added that his government has a responsibility towards the Iranians and members of other nations, whose citizens were killed in the plane crash.

The disaster and subsequent unrest comes amid one of the biggest escalations between Tehran and Washington since the revolution four decades ago that made them into foes.

The shootdown came just hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at two bases housing USA troops in response to Trump's order to kill the revered Iranian general, who commanded the elite Quds Force and led Iran's campaign to expand influence across the Middle East.

Iran responded with a barrage of missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq, inflicting no casualties in what was seen as an attempt to prevent a spiral of escalation.

The domestic unrest triggered by the plane crash comes just two months after the most violent crackdown on protests since the revolution. No American forces died in the attack, as the Iranian government had notified Iraq before launching the strike.

The death of Qassem Soleimani had initially united Iranians in mourning last week, but Iran's changing story has sparked a resurgence of protests.

Riot police have beaten some demonstrators with batons, social media posts show.

Rouhani called the government's admission that Iranian forces shot down the plane a "first good step".

"I've talked about the tremendous grief and loss that Canadians are feeling and the need for clear answers on how this happened and how we're going to make sure it never happens again", Trudeau said.

"Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance", Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi said in a statement on state media.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the victims of the Ukrainian jetliner shot down by a missile that killed 176 people including 57 Canadians would be alive right now if tensions had not escalated in the region.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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