WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Saturday announced that Washington was monitoring Iranian protests closely, and warned the Iranian regime against any new “massacre” as protests broke out after Tehran admitted to shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane.
Iran said earlier it unintentionally downed a Ukrainian jetliner outside Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially denying Western claims it was struck by a missile. The firing came shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing American forces.
President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”
“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added, apparently referring to an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November.
The new demonstrations follow an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November. Amnesty International has said it left more than 300 people dead.
Internet access was reportedly cut off in multiple Iranian provinces ahead of memorials planned a month after the protests.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demanded that Iran provide “full clarity” on the downing of the plane. Ottawa says the dead included 57 Canadians.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also offered his condolences and ordered the armed forces to address “shortcomings” so that such a disaster does not happen again.
On Saturday evening, police dispersed students who had converged on Amir Kabir University in Tehran to pay tribute to the victims, after some among the hundreds gathered shouted “destructive” slogans, Fars news agency said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said UK envoy Rob Macaire had been detained.
“The arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Raab said in a statement. The US called on Iran to apologise.
Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, which is close to the country’s conservatives, said the envoy had been “provoking radical acts” among students. He was released a few hours later and would be summoned again by Iranian officials on Sunday, it said.
Iran had been under mounting international pressure to allow a “credible” investigation after video emerged appearing to show the moment the airliner was hit.
In footage that the New York Times said it had verified, a fast-moving object is seen rising into the sky before a bright flash appears. Several seconds later, an explosion is heard.
Iran’s military said it had been at the highest level of alert after American “threats” and that the plane had turned and come close to a “sensitive” military site before it was targeted due to “human error.”
Rouhani said Iran had been on alert for possible US attacks after Soleimani’s “martyrdo