US officials have said they are now “confident” the passenger plane that came down in Tehran was shot down by an Iranian missile, with President Donald Trump saying “somebody could have made a mistake”.
One US official said US satellites had detected the launch of two missiles shortly before the plane crashed, followed by evidence of an explosion, Reuters news agency reported.
Two other officials said Washington believed the downing of the Ukraine International Airlines plane, in which all 176 people – including three British nationals – were killed, was accidental.
Their comments were preceded by Donald Trump saying “somebody could have made a mistake” by shooting down a passenger plane in Iran amid concerns the jet may have been hit by a missile.
His comments came almost immediately after Downing Street said it is looking into “very concerning” reports the Ukrainian plane that had just taken off from Tehran’s main airport on Wednesday had been shot down by a missile.
A Ukrainian official said the jet may have been shot down by an anti-aircraft missile.
Ukrainian investigators have arrived in Iran and are awaiting permission to examine the crash site and look for missile fragments.
“A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main (theories), as information has surfaced on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Mr Danilov said.
Newsweek said a Pentagon official, a senior US intelligence official and an Iraqi intelligence official confirmed Mr Danilov’s comments.
The Iranian military has disputed suggestions the airliner was brought down by a missile – something Downing Street previously said there was “no indication” of.
Following a call between Mr Johnson and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the prime minister’s spokesman said there needs to be “a full credible and transparent investigation in what happened”.
When asked about reports the crash was caused by a missile, the spokesman said: “I’m not going to speculate on this, but reports we have seen are very concerning.”
Mr Danilov said the three other possible causes under consideration include a drone or “other flying object” crashing into the plane mid-air, an explosion on the plane “as a result of a terrorist attack” or an engine malfunction causing the engine to explode.
A preliminary report by Iran’s civil aviation authority, published on Thursday, said the crew did not make a radio call for help and were trying to turn back when it came down just outside Tehran airport.
Investigators also said that the plane was engulfed in fire before it crashed.
The crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because the aircraft had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the report said.
It also confirmed that both of the black boxes that contain data and cockpit communications had been recovered, though they had been damaged and some parts of their memory was lost.
Mr Johnson also spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by phone on Thursday morning in which he called for an “end to hostilities” in the Gulf following Iranian missiles being launched at US and coalition bases in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the US assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani last Friday.