The United States’ Central Command has confirmed that one of its F-15 fighter jets intercepted an Iranian passenger plane in the skies over Syria yesterday, maintaining that it had been conducted according to international standards.
In a statement released last night, senior spokesman for CENTCOM Captain Bill Urban said the jet “conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of about 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the airliner this evening.” He reassured that “the professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards.”
The interception, according to Urban, was “to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at At-Tanf garrison,” referring to the strategic US military base in south-east Syria where it maintains a ground presence in the war-ridden country. “Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft.”
During the incident, the Iranian passenger plane’s pilot was forced to conduct a safety manoeuvre by dropping several hundred feet before stabilising, which reportedly resulted in some passengers sustaining minor injuries.
Following the interception, the plane continued towards Lebanon and landed in the capital Beirut, where the airport chief Fadi Al-Hassan informed Lebanese media that “All the passengers are well, but some suffered from minor wounds. Most suffered from shock and fear.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has said that it submitted complaints to the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s office, as well as the Swiss embassy within Tehran which represents US diplomatic services in Iran. The ministry’s spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said: “The details of the incident are still being investigated and afterward we will initiate political and legal steps.”