Iranian plane plunges after US ‘buzzes’ passenger jet
Passengers were left covered in blood after an Iranian plane went into a nosedive after being "buzzed" by US fighter jets over Syria, Iran claims.
The pilot said he had to send the plane spiralling to avoid colliding with the US aircraft, sparking screams of terror aboard the flight, Iranian state media reported.
The US later confirmed an F-15 fighter conducted a "standard visualisation" of the passenger jet at a safe distance.
Footage said to have been taken from inside the plane shows one man collapsed on the floor and another left with a bloodied face after the jet was "harassed" by the American fighter jets, Iranian TV claimed.
In the opening shot of the video, a jet can be seen flying past the window as a passenger records.
But it soon becomes a scene of chaos as the plane apparently nosedives and travellers on board can be heard screaming, according to The Sun.
The video then shows one man who had seemingly been knocked to the floor and another whose face was left covered with his own blood.
Video shared by Hassan Azimzadeh, a reporter with Iranian news outlet IRIB who was aboard Mahan Air Flight 1152, shows a military jet approaching the airliner.
An injured passenger sitting by the window describes how he had hit the roof of the plane and shows his blood-streaked face mask to the reporter, according to Reuters.
The footage also shows the rest of the passengers - some of whom are wearing flotation devices - and one elderly man sprawled on the floor while being assisted by others. Oxygen masks also are seen dangling from the overhead 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."
Iran's state-owned IRIB news agency initially said a single Israeli jet had come near the plane but later quoted the pilot as saying there were two jets that identified themselves as American.
The pilot of the passenger plane contacted the jet pilots to warn them to keep a safe distance and they identified themselves as American, the agency reported.
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 from the airliner this evening."
"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 manoeuvre was conducted in accordance with international standards.
The Iranian plane, belonging to Mahan Air, was heading from Tehran to Beirut and landed safely in Beirut, an airport source told Reuters.
US Navy Capt Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, confirmed that a US F-15 fighter jet conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner.
But he said the jet stayed at a safe distance of approximately 3,280ft.
This contradicts Iranian TV's report that the fighter jets came within 328ft of the Iranian plane.
Aircraft at the altitude they were flying at are supposed to maintain a distance of at least 2,000ft to ensure they don't hit each other, though planes travelling that close together can encounter wake turbulence.
Some passengers were injured after the incident, according to the Iranian report.
The encounter is being investigated and Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi vowed the necessary legal and political action would be taken, according to the Foreign Ministry website.
The incident comes only months after the US and Iran clashed over the killing of Qasem Soleimani.
This followed heightened tensions between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump pulled America out of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers over two years ago.
Originally published as Iranian plane plunges after US 'buzzes' passenger jet