American officials said Thursday the intelligence community had a “high level of confidence” that an Iranian missile accidentally brought down a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran this week.
The comments from the officials came after the Iranians, through the International Civil Aviation Organization, invited the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States to assist in the investigation despite previous reports that the Americans would not be involved, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
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 Thursday. It 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.
A security camera captured the impact — first the predawn darkness, then a series of blinding bursts of light in the distance, followed by a storm of burning debris in the foreground.
On Thursday, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said that investigators were following up on unconfirmed reports that fragments of a Russian-made Tor surface-to-air missile — a system used by Iran — had been found near where the plane, a Boeing 737-800, came down.
Ukraine was negotiating with Iran to allow the investigators to search the crash site near Tehran for possible rocket fragments, he told Censor.net, a Ukrainian news outlet.