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Iran Confirms President, Foreign Minister Killed in Helicopter Crash

May 20, 2024

by: Lior Ben Ari ~ Ynet

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was returning from Azerbaijan when his helicopter crashed, killing all onboard.

Monday, 20 May 2024 | Sixteen hours [after] contact was lost with a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Tehran officially announced Monday morning that both were killed in the incident.

The Iranian Red Crescent reported after about 14 hours of searching that the helicopter’s remains had been located.

An Iranian official told Reuters that “President Raisi’s helicopter was completely burned in the crash … unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead.”

Earlier, additional rescue teams joined the search efforts in harsh weather conditions. “We are combing every inch of the crash area,” said an Iranian military commander before the helicopter was found. “The weather here is extremely cold, rainy and foggy, with the rain gradually turning to snow.”

According to a report by the state news agency IRNA, teams conducted the search overnight on steep mountainsides amid a snowstorm.

Russia, Turkey and Qatar, all countries with close ties to Tehran, offered assistance to the Islamic Republic and joined the search efforts by sending search and rescue teams to the crash site.

“At Tehran’s request, rescue forces from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations will assist in the search for the helicopter,” Moscow announced on Telegram. “The team is heading toward Tabriz, comprising 47 specialists with necessary equipment, off-road vehicles and a BO-105 helicopter.”

Turkey reported that it dispatched a drone, a helicopter, vehicles and a rescue team after a request from Iranian authorities. The Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that the drone detected a heat source suspected to be part of the wrecked helicopter. The agency added that the coordinates of the site were shared with Iranian authorities, and the Turkish Defense Ministry dispatched a helicopter equipped with night vision to join the search. Meanwhile, the European Union offered assistance with emergency satellite mapping technology.

Saudi Arabia also expressed solidarity with Iran, announcing that it is closely monitoring the crash reports with “great concern.” Riyadh expressed support for Tehran and willingness to help in any possible way.

In Iran and globally, there were already questions on Sunday about the future of the Islamic Republic’s political system if Raisi was indeed confirmed dead. Although Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has the final say in state affairs, the president, elected only if approved by Khamenei and regime leaders, holds significant powers, especially in domestic matters.

According to Article 131 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution, if a president dies while in office, the first vice president acts as interim president after receiving approval from the supreme leader. A council composed of the first vice president, the speaker of the parliament and the head of the judiciary must then organize new presidential elections to be held within 50 days.

Raisi was elected president of Iran in 2021, meaning the next presidential elections were originally scheduled for next year.

Meanwhile, the White House said that President Joe Biden has been informed of the incident, and the US State Department said that it was closely monitoring reports emerging from Iran.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that intelligence authorities have informed him that there is “no evidence of foul play” in the crash of Raisi’s helicopter.

“It was very bad, foggy weather, [in] northwest Iran where the copter crashed. So it looks like an accident, but it’s still being fully investigated,” Schumer said, as quoted by NBC News. “There’s an ongoing effort to locate the helicopter. They still haven’t done that, and I’ll keep monitoring the situation as it unfolds.”

The commander of the Revolutionary Guards in East Azerbaijan Province, where the crash occurred, told the state news agency IRNA Sunday evening that “A signal was received from the helicopter and the mobile phone of one of the crew members at the crash site. Military forces are heading to the location, hoping for good news.”

This report came after long hours during which rescue teams struggled to locate the helicopter due to rain, fog and strong winds in the area.

Earlier, an Iranian official told Reuters that the lives of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-abdollahian, who was with him on board the helicopter, were at risk.

Raisi’s administrative assistant, Mohsen Mansouri, later revealed that authorities managed to contact one of the helicopter passengers and a crew member several times, but did not clarify who exactly was contacted or when.

The helicopter incident occurred near Jolfa, a city close to the Azerbaijani border, approximately 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of Tehran.

Raisi was visiting Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, against the backdrop of tense relations between the two countries, partly due to Azerbaijan’s close ties with Israel. The air incident apparently happened on his way back.

Posted on May 20, 2024

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on May 20, 2024. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Maryam Kamyab/Mehr News Agency/wikimedia

Photo License: wikimedia.org