Iran braces for protests after admitting Ukrainian plane shootdown

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Dubai/Washington

Iran deployed riot police in the capital on Sunday expecting possible protests after its Revolutionary Guard admitted to accidentally shooting down a passenger plane at a time of soaring tensions with the United States.
Riot police and plainclothes officers could be seen massing in Vali-e Asr Square in Tehran as calls circulated for protests later in the day. A large black banner unveiled in the square bore the names of those killed in the plane crash.
Iran’s statement on Saturday that a Ukrainian passenger plane was downed by a missile fired unintentionally followed growing pressure from abroad but also at home, and for some Iranians, the authorities’ expressions of condolence were not enough.
For days, Iran had denied Western accusations it was responsible for Wednesday’s crash soon after takeoff from Tehran. Authorities said on Saturday that air defenses had been fired in error while on high alert following Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
Expressions of condolence over the incident from supreme leader and President Hassan Rouhani failed to calm angry Iranians, who used social media to express their outrage against the establishment for concealing the truth.
“It is a national tragedy. The way it was handled and it was announced by the authorities was even more tragic,” said Ali Ansari, a moderate cleric, according to Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency.
Many Iranians asked why authorities did not close down Tehran’s airport and the country’s airspace at a time when they would have been on alert for retaliation after the missile strikes. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has said the United States was monitoring Iranian demonstrations closely, warning against any new “massacre” as protests broke out after Tehran admitted to shooting down a passenger plane.–Agencies