Several passengers on an Iranian plane en route from Tehran to Beirut were injured when the pilots changed altitude to avoid a US fighter jet that “harassed” them over Syria, Iranian media reported Friday – but the US military said the F-15 conducted a “visual inspection” from a safe distance.
Video shared by Hassan Azimzadeh, a reporter with Iranian news outlet IRIB who was aboard Mahan Air Flight 1152 on Thursday, shows a military jet approaching the airliner.
An injured passenger sitting by the window described how he had hit the roof of the plane and showed his blood-streaked face mask to the reporter, according to Reuters.
The footage also showed the rest of the passengers – some of whom were wearing flotation devices – and one elderly man sprawled on the floor while being assisted by others. Oxygen masks also were seen dangling from the ovearhead panels.
“I saw a black plane approaching us, and then we lost our balance,” an unidentified injured passenger told state TV, Reuters reported. “It was a jet. Almost so near our plane.”
Azimzadeh said that the flight landed safely in Beirut.
“Some passengers were injured and ambulances were called to take them to Beirut hospital,” he said.
The plane arrived back in Tehran early Friday, according to the Fars news agency.
The US Central Command, which oversees American troops in the region, said the F-15 was conducting a visual inspection of the Iranian plane when it passed near the Tanf garrison in Syria where US forces are stationed.
Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said the fighter 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 added: “The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at At Tanf garrison. Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft.”
Urban said the maneuver was conducted in accordance with international standards.
IRIB reported that the Iranian crew contacted the F-15, which identified itself as American, to warn it to keep a safe distance, according to Reuters.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Tehran would take legal and political actions in response to the incident.
Mohammad Eslami, Iran’s minister of roads and urban development was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying his country has lodged a formal complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization.
He described the US flyby as a “terrorist act — one of aggression.”
Iranian media also quoted Laya Joneydi, vice president for legal affairs, as saying: “The explanations provided so far (by the U.S. military) are unjustified and unconvincing.
“The harassment of a passenger plane on the territory of a third country is a clear violation of aviation security and freedom of civilian aircraft,” Joneydi added.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the US of risking a disaster, Reuters reported.
“US … harasses a scheduled civil airliner – endangering innocent civilian passengers – ostensibly to protect its occupation forces,” he said in a tweet. “These outlaws must be stopped before disaster.”
Tensions have spiked between Washington and Tehran since 2018, when President Trump pulled out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have hammered the country’s economy.
With Post wires
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