Iran president's firebrand advisor threatens US over jet ‘near miss’ after passengers left ‘bloodied in nosedive’
IRAN has threatened the US after one its airliners was in a near miss with an American F-15 fighter jet that is said to have left passengers bloodied after a dramatic nosedive.
Presidential advisor Hesamodin Ashna, a close aide to Hassan Rouhani, warned the US it would face consequences for "playing with the lives" of Iranians.
Footage circulating allegedly showing the incident features passengers collapsed on the floor and others left bloody after the near miss.
Iranian state media said the pilot had had to send the plane spiraling in a nosedive to avoid collision with the US warplane.
The Iranian plane, belonging to Mahan Air, was heading from Tehran to Beirut and landed safely at its destination.
US officials have confirmed the incident and said the fighter plane flew some 3,000ft past the airliner, but Iran insists the pass occurred just 328ft from the Airbus A310.
The US military confirmed the flypast was a "standard visual inspection", while Iranian state media branded the incident as "dangerous".
In a thinly veiled threat, Mr Ashna said: "One who loves the lives of his leaders does not play with the lives of our passengers."
The firebrand advisor has previously called for a "death sentence" for those responsible for the death of Iranian terrorist leader Qassem Soleimani.
He even boasted he listed a number of US President Donald Trump's properties around the world to strike in revenge.
Mr Ashna has also spoken of threats to kill and execute protesters in Iran, and is a key advisor to Mr Rouhani who has worked with him since his presidential campaign in 2013.
Ashna also has a record in the Iranian security forces before he joined Rouhani's team – being a "special deputy" at the Ministry of Intelligence.
Sadeq Saba, editor of Iran International TV, a UK based news channel, and former head of BBC Persian, said the threats should be taken seriously amid the tensions.
Mr Saba said: "Iran is in a terrible position right now, but is hoping to establish alliances with China and Russia.
"Any threat made by an individual with close links to the leader should be taken seriously.”
The near miss comes amid a time of intense tension between Iran and the US, which almost simmered to boiling point following the killing of Soleimani in January.
And relations have been stretched to breaking point since Trump pulled America out of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers over two years ago.
The mid-air encounter is being investigated and Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi vowed the necessary legal and political action would be taken.
US defence officials said there two US F-15s in the air, but only one was sent to make the visual inspection.
The jet flew close as the Iranian airliner appeared "to have deviated from" an established commercial air corridor, reports CNN.
Iranian state media however reported that the F-15 took "provocative" action that forced the passenger plane into a nosedive.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the US of "endangering innocent civilian passengers" and warned "these outlaws must be stopped before disaster".
The incident comes just months after Iran shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 passengers and crew on January 8 this year.
It occured just five days after Trump launched a drone strike on Soleimani, and it emerged a surface to air missile had been mistakenly launched at the airliner by Iran.
And the near miss will also be an uncomfortable reminder of downing of Iran Air Flight 655, which was travelling to Dubai when it was shot down by the USS Vincennes.
The US warship launched a missile after identifying the plane as an attacking fighter jet – killing all 290 people on board – during the incident on July 3, 1988.
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