Search Underway for Iranian President Raisi After Helicopter Crash

Sun May 19 2024
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TEHRAN: Iranian search and rescue teams were scouring a fog-shrouded mountainside after a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi went missing in an “accident” on Sunday, state media said.

The incident occurred in the mountainous terrain of the Jolfa region in East Azerbaijan province. Fears grew for President Raisi after contact was lost with the helicopter carrying him as well as Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in East Azerbaijan province, reports said.

State television confirmed the occurrence, attributing it to an accident or “hard landing” amid adverse weather conditions. The dense fog and inclement weather have hindered rescue efforts, making it challenging for teams to access the crash site.

Over 40 rescue teams, supported by search dogs and drones, have been mobilized to comb through the rugged landscape in search of any signs of the missing helicopter and its passengers, IRNA news agency reported.

Raisi was visiting the province where he inaugurated a dam project together with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, on the border between the two countries.

President Raisi was visiting the region to inaugurate a dam project alongside Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, on the border between the two countries.

The convoy accompanying President Raisi consisted of three helicopters, with two helicopters successfully reaching their intended destination, according to the Tasnim news agency. As the search intensifies, foreign nations, including the United States, are closely monitoring the situation.

A US State Department spokesman said: “We are closely following reports of a possible hard landing of a helicopter in Iran carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister. “We have no further comment at this time.”

In neighboring Iraq, Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani has instructed relevant authorities to offer assistance in the search efforts. Azeri President Aliyev expressed deep concern over the incident, extending prayers and readiness to assist in any way possible. “Our prayers to Allah Almighty are with President Ebrahim Raisi and the accompanying delegation,” he said, noting that his country “stands ready to offer any assistance needed”.

The crash site, located in the mountainous protected forest area of Dizmar near Varzaghan, has become the focal point of a multi-agency response involving military personnel, the Revolutionary Guards, police, and medical teams. Despite the challenges posed by the terrain and weather, efforts to establish communication with the missing helicopter persist.

Iran’s Health Minister Bahram Eynollahi said medical resources had been dispatched.

The reformist Shargh Daily also reported that “the helicopter carrying the president crashed” while two other helicopters had landed safely.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said one of the helicopters “made a hard landing due to bad weather conditions” and that it was “difficult to establish communication” with the aircraft.

President Raisi, who assumed office in 2021, has been an influential figure in Iranian politics for decades. Raisi, born in 1960 in northeast Iran’s holy city of Mashhad, served as Tehran’s prosecutor-general from 1989 to 1994, deputy chief of the Judicial Authority for a decade from 2004, and then national prosecutor-general in 2014.

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