American media reports on Thursday claimed that Iran mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian plane that crashed on Wednesday near Tehran with 176 people on board.
United States (U.S.) officials said they believe the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was hit by a missile, CBS quoted them as saying.
Ukraine earlier said it was examining whether a missile strike brought down the aircraft – but Iran ruled this out.
The crash came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing US forces in Iraq.
CBS News quoted U.S. intelligence sources as saying a satellite detected infrared “blips” of two missile launches, followed by another blip of an explosion.
Meanwhile, Newsweek quoted a Pentagon and senior U.S. intelligence officials, as well as an Iraqi intelligence official, as saying they believed the Ukrainian plane was hit by a Russian-made Tor missile.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that “I have my suspicions” over the plane. “Somebody could have made a mistake,” he said.
Amid tensions heightened by the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on 3 January, Iran has said it will not hand over the recovered black box flight recorders to Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer, or to the US.
Under global aviation rules Iran has the right to lead the investigation, but manufacturers are typically involved.
In separate reports, CBS News and Newsweek said U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials were confident the Ukrainian plane was brought down by a missile fired by Iran.
CBS published a brief report on Twitter, saying the officials were confident the plane was shot down.
It said this information was based on US intelligence, which sources said picked up signals of a radar being turned on. US satellites also reportedly detected two missile launches shortly before the Ukrainian plane exploded.
Meanwhile, Newsweek quoted US and Iraqi officials as saying they believed the aircraft was hit by a Russia-built Tor M-1 surface-to-air missile system, known as Gauntlet by Nato.
Two Pentagon officials assessed that the incident was accidental, Newsweek added.
It quoted sources as saying that Iran’s anti-aircraft systems were probably active following its attacks on the U.S. airbases.
Meanwhile, asked what he thought happened to the plane, President Trump said: “I have my suspicions. It’s a tragic thing when I see that, it’s a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.
“Some people say it was mechanical. I personally, I don’t think that’s even a question, personally. So we’ll see what happens.
“Something very terrible happened. Very devastating,” Trump said.
Earlier yesterday, Oleksiy Danylov, the secretary of Ukraine’s security and defence council, said in a Facebook post (in Ukrainian) that three four main possible crash causes were being considered:
Danylov said Ukrainian investigators, who are already in Iran, wanted to search for possible debris from a missile at the site of the crash. Iran is known to have Russian missile defence systems.
The investigation would include experts who worked on the investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, Danylov added.