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Khamenei defends Iranian military over plane crash

| Updated: January 19, 2020 11:39:59

Khamenei defends Iranian military over plane crash

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has defended the country's military after it admitted shooting down a passenger plane by mistake.

He said the Revolutionary Guard - the elite unit responsible for the disaster - "maintained the security" of Iran, report BBC and Reuters.

Widespread protests and criticism from abroad have put growing pressure on Iran over its handling of the incident.

But the ayatollah tried to rally support as he led Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time since 2012.

He called for "national unity" and said Iran's "enemies" - a reference to Washington and its allies - had used the shooting down of the plane to overshadow the killing of senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.

"Our enemies were as happy about the plane crash as we were sad," he said. "[They were] happy that they had found something to question the Guard and the armed forces."

Khamenei mentioned that Iran’s missile strikes on US targets in Iraq this month delivered a “slap on the face” to the United States, showing the Islamic Republic had divine support.

During a spike in tension, Iran launched missiles at US targets on January 8 in response to a US drone strike on January. 3 that killed Qassem Soleimeni, a powerful Iranian general who was close to Khamenei.

 “The fact that Iran has the power to give such a slap to a world power shows the hand of God,” Khamenei said, after referring to the launch of missiles against US targets as a “day of God”. His comments were met by chants of “Death to America!”.

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