The plane which crashed in Iran and killed everyone on board was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, officials have reportedly revealed.
The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines jet came down shortly after taking off from Tehran Airport yesterday, killing all 176 people on board.
The tragedy came just hours after Tehran fired at least 15 ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq, sparking speculation it was shot down by mistake by jittery Iranian air defences.
And three sources in US and Iraqi intelligence have now told Newsweek they believe this is what caused the disaster.
Two Pentagon officials quoted told the site the incident was accidental.
And the US detected two missiles being launched before the plane exploded, CBS reporter Kris Van Cleave reported.
He said: “US officials are confident Ukrainian Flt 752 was shot down by Iran.
“US intelligence picked up signals of the radar being turned on & satellite detected infrared blips of 2 missile launches, probably SA-15s, followed shortly by another infrared blip of an explosion.”
A UK government spokesman today said Downing Street was looking into the reports, which it found “very concerning”.
The spokesman said: “The prime minister said that there needed to be a full credible and transparent investigation into what happened.”
Asked about reports on the causes of the crash, some of which have mooted a missile strike or terrorism, he added: “I’m not going to speculate on this, but reports we have seen are very concerning.”
Unverified pictures earlier shared on social media claim to show parts of an anti-aircraft missile allegedly found near the crash site, in the city of Parand.
Ashkan Monfared tweeted the image, which he said was taken “by an amateur who had no knowledge of the significance of the story and did not know what he had found”.
“Does the airplane look anything like this? Isn’t it rocket?”
He also compared the image to the nose cone of a Russian-made Tor surface-to-air missile.
Russia delivered 29 Tor-M1s to Iran in 2007 as part of a $700million contract signed in December 2005. Iran has displayed the missiles in military parades as well.
Others who are said to have been living nearby have said they heard loud noises coming from Parandak army base at around the time of the disaster.
One wrote of Twitter: “I am a resident of Parand and two to three minutes before the plane crashed two very loud noises were heard from Parandak’s garrison.”
But others suggested the image was a hoax, with one tweeting: “What is the source of the photo? It has no context. Could have been taken anywhere.”
Ukrainian investigators now want to search for the alleged missile debris, Oleksiy Danylov, the secretary of the national security council, said today.
He said: “A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main (theories).”
Ukraine is looking at various possible causes of the crash of an Ukrainian airliner, including a possible missile attack, a collision, an engine explosion or terrorism, Danylov wrote in a Facebook post.