[guest post by Dana]
From the AP:
Iran on Friday denied Western allegations that one of its own missiles downed a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed outside Tehran, and called on the U.S. and Canada to share any information they have on the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.
Western leaders said the plane appeared to have been unintentionally hit by a surface-to-air missile just hours after Iran launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of its top general in an American airstrike last week.
“What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department, told a press conference.
Further, there are now concerns being raised about the integrity of Iran’s investigation into the crash:
The site of a crashed Ukrainian airliner near Iran’s capital Tehran has been cleared of all large pieces of debris and locals are trawling over the remaining wreckage, as calls grow for a full and transparent investigation into the disaster.
The lack of security at the scene has raised concerns over the inquiry’s credibility, just a day after western intelligence officials said Iran shot down the jet with surface-to-air missiles. Iran has denied any hostile act, calling the assessment a “big lie.”
An eyewitness at the crash site told CNN that looters and “garbage men” were “wandering around,” picking up debris, objects made of aluminum and anything else deemed valuable, as police and Revolutionary Guard Corps tried to disperse them.
The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority Ali Abedzadeh told CNN on Friday that fragments of the plane had been taken to a hangar off-site to “reconstruct” it for “investigating the cause of the crash,” and that the remains of victims had been sent to a forensic lab for DNA testing.
Note: CBS News visited the crash site on Friday and found that it had already been scrubbed of virtually all debris.
Graham Braithwaite, professor of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University explains just how critical the actual crash site is when black boxes are damaged, as Iran has claimed they are:
Where you have flight recorders that tell you what has happened you can move quickly to clearing the site. But if the recorders are damaged…then all you have is the forensic evidence at the site to tell you the story.
Here is video making the rounds that appears to be the missile hitting the plane:
Researchers with the online investigative group Bellingcat were able to pinpoint the location from which the video was shot, in the town of Parand. “There is a construction site with a few very distinct buildings,” says Aric Toler, the group’s lead researcher on Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The camera appears to be pointing in the correct direction, showing the missile coming from the north or west, the direction of some of the sensitive Iranian facilities, and what is likely the aircraft coming from the south or east, where the airport is located.
Toler says the time it takes the sound of the blast to reach the viewer also provides a clue. “If you’re watching a storm, you can count how far away the lightning is, based on how long the thunder takes,” he says. “It’s the same thing with a missile explosion.”
The delay between flash and boom shows the explosion took place some 3.3 kilometers (2 miles) from the viewer, a good match for where the flight was expected to be. “It is exactly the right distance and path to where the flight path was,” Toler says.
It is now being reported that Iran intends to announce what caused the downing of the Ukrainian jetplane tomorrow.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)