Scores killed as Ukrainian aircraft crashes near airport in Iran’s capital

A Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 people has crashed just minutes after taking off from the Iranian capital's main airport, killing all on board.

The crash involving a Ukraine International Airlines plane came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing US soldiers, but both Ukrainian and Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The plane carried 167 passengers and nine crew members on its flight to the Ukrainian capital. Ukraine's foreign minister said that Iranian, British, Canadian, Ukrainian, Swedish, Afghan and German nationals were killed in the crash.

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Debris is seen from an Ukrainian plane which crashed as authorities work at the scene in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of an Ukrainian plane crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Debris is seen from an Ukrainian plane which crashed as authorities work at the scene in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Debris is seen from an Ukrainian plane which crashed as authorities work at the scene in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Rescue workers search the scene where an Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A relative of one of flight stewardesses, who were on the board a Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran, reacts at Borispil international airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard, Iranian state TV and officials in Ukraine said. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
CORRECTS YEAR - Debris is seen from a plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying at least 170 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s main airport, killing all onboard, state TV reported. (AP Photos/Mohammad Nasiri)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Bodies of passengers are being carried from the site by search and rescue team members after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Passengers' belongings are seen as search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Passengers' belongings are seen as search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Rescue teams recover debris from a field after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. - The Boeing 737 had left Tehran's international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said, adding that 10 ambulances were sent to the crash site. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
Rescue teams work amidst debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. - The Boeing 737 had left Tehran's international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said, adding that 10 ambulances were sent to the crash site. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 08: Search and rescue works are conducted at site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff with 180 passengers on board in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2020. All 167 passengers and nine crew members on an Ukrainian 737 plane that crashed near Iran's capital Tehran early Wednesday have died, according to a state official. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
People and rescue teams are pictured amid bodies and debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. - The Boeing 737 had left Tehran's international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said, adding that 10 ambulances were sent to the crash site. (Photo by Rouhollah VAHDATI / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by ROUHOLLAH VAHDATI/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)
People walk near the wreckage after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. - The Boeing 737 had left Tehran's international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said, adding that 10 ambulances were sent to the crash site. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People stand near the wreckage after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran on January 8, 2020. - All 176 people on board a Ukrainian passenger plane were killed when it crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran on January 8, Iranian state media reported. State news agency IRNA said 167 passengers and nine crew members were on board the aircraft operated by Ukraine International Airlines. (Photo by Rouhollah VAHDATI / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by ROUHOLLAH VAHDATI/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers' belongings are seen after the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
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Vadim Prystaiko said there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board. The Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and nine crew members. He said there were also 10 Swedish nationals, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy extended his condolences to the families of the victims. His office said he had cut short his visit to Oman and was returning because of the crash. The country's Prime Minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, confirmed the casualty toll.

"Our task is to establish the cause of the crash of the Boeing and provide all necessary help to the families of the victims," said parliament speaker Dmytro Razumkov in a Facebook statement.

Ukraine International Airlines said it had indefinitely suspended flights to Tehran after the crash.

"It was one of the best planes we had, with an amazing, reliable crew," said Yevhen Dykhne, president of Ukraine International Airlines.

The plane had been delayed from taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport by almost an hour. It took off to the west, but never made it above 8,000 feet in the air, according to data from the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.

It remains unclear what happened. Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared a fire struck one of its engines.

The pilot of the aircraft then lost control of the plane, sending it crashing into the ground, Mr Biniaz said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Iran Plane Crash
Debris from a plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran (Mohammad Nasiri/AP)

Hassan Razaeifar, the head of Iran's air crash investigation committee, said it appeared the pilot could not communicate with air-traffic controllers in Tehran in the last moments of the flight.

Ukrainian authorities have offered to help with the investigation of the plane crash.

The plane, fully loaded with fuel for its 1,430-mile flight, slammed into farmland near the town of Shahedshahr on the outskirts of Tehran.

Resident Din Mohammad Qassemi said he had been watching the news about the Iranian ballistic missile attack on US forces in Iraq in revenge for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani when he heard the crash.

"I heard a massive explosion and all the houses started to shake. There was fire everywhere," he said. "At first I thought (the Americans) have hit here with missiles and went in the basement as a shelter. After a while, I went out and saw a plane has crashed over there."

The Boeing 737-800 is a very common single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner used for short to medium-range flights. Thousands of the planes are used by airlines around the world.

Introduced in the late 1990s, it is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months following two deadly crashes. Boeing built the aircraft that crashed on Wednesday in 2016 and it last underwent routine maintenance on Monday, Ukraine International Airlines said.

A number of 737-800 aircraft have been involved in deadly accidents over the years.

In March 2016, a FlyDubai 737-800 from Dubai crashed while trying to land at Rostov-on-Don airport in Russia, killing 62. Another 737-800 flight from Dubai, operated by Air India Express, crashed in May 2010 while trying to land in Mangalore, India, killing more than 150 people.

Chicago-based Boeing said it was "aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information".

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