Iran's President Raisi, FM Amirabdollahian killed in helicopter crash

Irans President Raisi, FM Amirabdollahian killed in helicopter crash
Date: 20.5.2024 12:00

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian have died in a helicopter crash.

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The President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were killed in the helicopter crash on Sunday, the country's vice president said Monday, after Turkish Akıncı drone detected the location of the crash.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society announced early Monday that they had found the location of the wreckage of President Ebrahim Raisi's helicopter after it was detected by Akıncı unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Speaking to local media, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent, Pir Hossein Kolivand, said that 2 kilometers are left to reach the area where the wreckage is located.
Iran's official news agency IRNA also confirmed the finding.
The news was posted on IRNA's Telegram account.
"President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash," the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Iran's Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that "all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred."
An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.
State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.
State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.
Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran's nuclear program, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.
Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.
"With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter's passengers," the head of Iran's Red Crescent, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told state TV.
Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programing to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.
In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.
Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.
The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.
The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran's clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran's disputed nuclear program and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.
In Iran's dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi's 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi's main policies. Raisi's victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.
However, Raisi's standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran's economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.
Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a "friendly farewell" to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.


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