Published: Mon, January 13, 2020

No 'cover up' in shot down airliner accountability, Iran officials say

No 'cover up' in shot down airliner accountability, Iran officials say

According to videos posted online by social media users, protests continued a second night in other cities as well. There were no survivors.

Video also showed dozens of police in riot gear in another area of Tehran.

Iran's police said on January 13 officers had not fired at protesters demonstrating over Tehran's admission that it shot down a passenger plane, as video on social media recorded gunshots and pools of blood.

Demonstrations at home - some apparently met by a violent crackdown - have become the latest effect of one of the most destabilizing escalations between the United States and Iran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Meanwhile, Tehran's police chief has denied that Iranian police officers shot at demonstrators protesting the downing of the Ukrainian International Airlines jet, that left all 176 passengers dead.

Iran's government on Monday denied a "cover-up" after its armed forces took three days to admit that a passenger plane was downed by mistake last week.

Videos posted late on Sunday recorded gunshots in the vicinity of protests in Tehran's Azadi Square.

Another video shows an injured woman being carried away by people who shout that she has been shot in the leg.

Riot police in black uniforms and helmets gathered earlier Sunday in Vali-e Asr Square, at Tehran University and other landmarks.

As the sun went down, columns of security vans, including some fitted with cages, were seen heading towards Azadi Square. The veracity of the footage and witness accounts could not be independently verified.

Scores of protesters were also reported at sites in other cities.

"At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital's police officers have been given orders to show restraint", Hossein Rahimi said.

Trump, hours earlier, again warned Tehran not to kill protesters, saying, "Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching". It plans to send more staff as early as Monday.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a member of Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, accused the ambassador of organizing protests and called for his expulsion.

Iran's response - a carefully calibrated but heavily publicised ballistic missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq last Wednesday - was supposed to bring catharsis and demonstrate the regime's power. Speaking to the Today programme, the Conservative peer said: "I think what has happened is part of the regime, the Revolutionary Guards, have concealed from the rest of the regime what had actually happened".

"It's nice that President Trump [is] tweeting in Farsi, but we want to tell him that we don't want war", Zafi told VOA.

Iran's military released a statement Saturday morning admitting its "unforgivable mistake", and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered an investigation into the incident.

Iran on Sunday summoned the ambassador to complain about "his unconventional behaviour of attending an illegal rally", the foreign ministry website said.

Iran responded with a barrage of missiles at two United States bases in Iraq, inflicting no casualties in what was seen as an attempt to prevent a spiral of escalation. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air raids that killed at least 25 fighters.

Days earlier, Iranians had been united in grief over the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, their country's second most powerful man, in a USA drone strike in Iraq. The Ukrainian plane, on its way to Kiev, crashed hours later. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called it a "disastrous mistake". A top Guards commander said he had told the authorities on the same day as the crash that a missile had brought down the plane, raising questions about why Iran had initially denied it.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a memorial for the victims of the Ukrainian plane disaster.

Another seven consular officials, as well as two investigators from the Transportation Safety Board are now in Ankara, Turkey awaiting their travel documents.

The government has been seeking access into Iran since the tragedy and has so far been granted three visas to allow consular officials into the country and those three people are expected to arrive on Saturday.

Iran's government spokesman dismissed Trump's comments, saying Iranians were suffering because of his actions and they would remember that he had ordered the killing of Soleimani, whose death on January 3 prompted days of mourning ceremonies.

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