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20 May, 2024 09:34

Iranian president killed in helicopter crash: What we know so far

Ebrahim Raisi’s aircraft hit the ground in a mountainous area during bad weather
Iranian president killed in helicopter crash: What we know so far

The Iranian government has confirmed that President Ebrahim Raisi and several other high-ranking officials were killed when their helicopter crashed in the northwest of the country on Sunday.

What happened

Reports began circulating on Sunday afternoon that Raisi’s US-made Bell 212 helicopter had made a “crash landing” in dense fog in a mountainous area near the city of Jolfa in the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan. The president was returning to Tehran from the border region after inaugurating a dam on the Aras River with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Two other helicopters in Raisi’s convoy successfully made it to their destination.

The rescue effort

Low visibility, rain, and the impassibility of the area seriously complicated the search operation. Some 40 rescue teams were deployed to look for the helicopter. The wreckage was discovered only on Monday morning with the help of Turkish surveillance drones. The Iranian Red Crescent Society said the aircraft was severely damaged and charred, and that there were no signs of survivors.

Shortly after that, state-run Iranian media outlets reported that Raisi, 63, and the other passengers had been killed. The president’s death was later confirmed by the government in Tehran. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has declared five days of mourning in the country for the victims of the crash.

Who was on board the helicopter

Besides Raisi, the crashed helicopter was also carrying Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azerbaijan Governor Malek Rahmati, East Azerbaijan Imam Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, and the head of presidential guard, Mehdi Mousavi.

What next for Iran

The Iranian government has said it will keep operating “without the slightest disruption” following the death of President Raisi. “The path of service will continue with the tireless spirit of Ayatollah Raisi,” it said in a statement. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has announced the appointment of First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as acting president. Mokhber will be in the post for 50 days until an election is held.

How the world reacted

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his “deepest condolences” to Iran following Raisi’s death. He described the late Iranian president as “an outstanding politician” and “true friend” of Russia, who did a lot to strengthen ties between Moscow and Tehran to the level of strategic partnership.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, and the leaders of Venezuela, Jordan, and Egypt were among the first to convey their condolences to Tehran. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he and his government were “deeply shocked” by what had happened to Raisi and others on board the helicopter.

Iran’s arch-rival Israel has reportedly denied any involvement in Raisi’s helicopter crash. “It wasn’t us,” an unnamed Israeli official told Reuters.