Jan. 13 (UPI) — As protests continue in Tehran for a second day demanding leadership step down for its handling of a Ukrainian passenger jet shot down last week by an Iranian missile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured the families of those killed that they will not rest until justice has been achieved.
“This tragedy should have never occurred, and I want to assure you that you have my full support during this extraordinarily difficult time … You give us purpose to pursue justice and accountability for you,” Trudeau said Sunday during a memorial service in the western province of Alberta for the victims of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752.
“I want to assure all families and all Canadians, we will not rest until there are answers,” he said. “We will not rest until there is justice and accountability.”
Canada stands united in its grief with the families of those killed when Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was shot down Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board, including 57 Canadians, he said.
“All Canadians were heartbroken to hear that Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 had crashed,” he said. “All Canadians were shocked and outraged to learn that it had been brought down by an Iranian missile. This tragedy struck our Iranian-Canadian community, leaving cities like Edmonton reeling. But this was truly a Canadian tragedy. All Canadians are mourning your loss.”
Following days of vociferous denials by Iranian officials, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani apologized Saturday after admitting the aircraft was shot down by missiles “due to human error,” spurring protests to erupt in the streets of Tehran demanding Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei resign.
On Sunday, those protests spread to at least a dozen cities outside the capital, and in Tehran security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse the crowds.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned Iran’s leaders not to harm the protesters, stating via Twitter that “the world is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching.”
In a rare apology, Gen. Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said he wished he was among the doomed passengers of Flight 752 and that the military is sadder than anyone else over the tragedy, Iran’s Fars News Agency reporter.
During a mourning ceremony for two victims of the plane crash, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, denied accusations that they had attempted to cover-up the cause of the crash, stating to do so would be impossible given the crash’s “characteristics.”
“The announcement of the real cause of the Ukrainian plane crash took some time due to the necessity of examining all the possible theories, including ‘possible enemy actions in jamming,’ ‘hacking of systems’ ‘infiltration,’ and other related factors,” he said, Iran’s Press TV reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the prosecutor general has opened an investigation into the “murder” of 11 Ukrainian citizens who were on board the doomed plane and that his government will provide financial assistance to their families while calling upon the international community to insist upon a full investigation into the crash.
“All of us need it,” he said in an address Saturday.
Canada’s Prime Minister’s Office said earlier that Trudeau had spoken with Rouhani who assured him of international cooperation for a “complete and thorough investigation,” stating his commitment to facilitate access to Iran of its consular and aviation experts to support families affected by the incident.
Meanwhile, at least four Iraqi soldiers were wounded Sunday when eight Katusha missiles were fired at Balad airbase in Iraq, the Iraqi military said in a statement carried by Iraqi News Agency INA.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded in a statement calling on the government of Iraq to hold those responsible.
“These continued violations of Iraq’s sovereignty by groups not loyal to the Iraqi government must end,” he said via Twitter.
The shooting of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 occurred amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States and hours after Tehran conducted a missile strike on two U.S. airbases in Iraq in retaliation for Washington killing Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a high-ranking Iranian military official, in an airstrike on Jan 3.