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Thursday June 13, 2024

Helicopter carrying Iranian president, FM ‘crashes upon landing’: state TV

Rainy weather and impassability of area makes search operations difficult with no news on Raisi, FM's condition

By AFP & Reuters
May 19, 2024
A helicopter carrying Irans President Ebrahim Raisi takes off, near the Iran-Azerbaijan border, May 19, 2024. — Reuters
A helicopter carrying Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi takes off, near the Iran-Azerbaijan border, May 19, 2024. — Reuters

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other government officials "crashed upon landing" in poor weather conditions, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Sunday.

"An accident happened to the helicopter carrying the president" on their way back from province bordering Azerbaijan in the Jofa region, the state television said.

The state TV in the Islamic republic broadcast footage of faithful praying in Raisi's home city as there were fears for the 63-year-old after reports of helicopter crash in the remote western mountain region, with no news on Raisi's condition.

Search and rescue team were headed to the remote mountain area, state media in the Islamic republic reported, adding that others was also aboard the ill-fated aircraft.

The news agency said that search operations were underway. However, foggy weather and the impassability of the area has made the search operations difficult.

Sunday's accident happened in the mountainous protected forest area of Dizmar near the town of Varzaghan, said the official IRNA news agency.

Raisi was visiting East Azerbaijan province where he inaugurated a dam project together with his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on the border between the two countries.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Azerbaijans President Ilham Aliyev visit the Qiz-Qalasi dam on the Azerbaijan-Iran border, May 19, 2024. — Reuters
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev visit the Qiz-Qalasi dam on the Azerbaijan-Iran border, May 19, 2024. — Reuters

His convoy included three helicopters, and the other two had "reached their destination safely," according to Tasnim news agency.

IRNA said the foreign minister and local officials were travelling in the same helicopter as Raisi.

The reformist Shargh daily also reported that "the helicopter carrying the president crashed" while two other helicopters landed safely.

Khamenei tells Iranians to 'not worry'

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians on Sunday to "not worry" for the country after state media said a helicopter carrying Raisi had an accident.

"The Iranian people should not worry, there will be no disruption in the country's work," Khamenei said in a speech carried on state TV. "We hope that Almighty God will bring our dear president and his companions back in full health into the arms of the nation."

US State Department closely watching reports on helicopter crash

Soon after the reports of chopper crash involving Raisi, the US State Department is closely watching reports regarding the accident, a spokesperson said.

The Iranian leader took the reins of the country in June 2021, when the gulf nation was in the grip of a deep social crisis and an economy strained by US sanctions against Tehran over its contested nuclear programme.

Azerbaijan's Aliyev says his prayers are with Raisi

In response to the reports of helicopter crash, Azeri President Aliyev said he was profoundly troubled by news of the Iranian president's helicopter crash landing after bidding a friendly farewell to Raisi earlier in the day.

"Today, after bidding a friendly farewell to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, we were profoundly troubled by the news of a helicopter carrying the top delegation crash-landing in Iran," Aliyev said.

"Our prayers to Allah Almighty are with President Ebrahim Raisi and the accompanying delegation. As a neighbor, friend, and brotherly country, the Republic of Azerbaijan stands ready to offer any assistance needed."

Pakistan expresses deep concern on Raisi accident

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed concern over the "distressing news from Iran".

PM Shehbazs tweet. — X
PM Shehbaz's tweet. — X

"Waiting with great anxiety for good news that all is well. Our prayers and best wishes are with Hon. President Raisi and the entire Iranian nation," he wrote on X.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari offered heartfelt prayers and good wishes for "well-being and safety" of his Iranian counterpart.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar offer help in rescue efforts

Saudi Arabia expressed its support for Iran and said it was ready to provide any assistance required after a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi crashed on Sunday.

The Saudi foreign ministry also said the kingdom was following reports about the crash with "great concern", according to the Saudi state news agency.

Neighbouring Iraq also offered Iran help in search and rescue efforts at the crash site.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani "instructed the interior ministry, the Iraqi Red Crescent and other relevant authorities to offer the Islamic Republic of Iran the available resources to aid in the search for the Iranian president's aircraft," government spokesman Bassem al-Awadi said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement that the Gulf state was ready to provide "all forms of support" for Iran's search efforts for Iranian officials.

EC activates satellite mapping service to assist with search

The European Commission is activating satellite mapping service to aid search efforts after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's helicopter crashed, following a request for assistance from Iran, the European commissioner for crisis management said.

The European Commission's Copernicus Emergency Management Service provides mapping products based on satellite imagery.

Crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said on X that the service was activating its "rapid response mapping service in view of the helicopter accident."

Turkey's Erdogan offers Iran 'all necessary support'

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said he was "profoundly saddened" at news of the helicopter accident involving Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, and offered "all necessary support" to the search.

"We are following the incident closely, are in contact and in coordination with the Iranian authorities and we are ready to provide all necessary support," Erdogan posted on X, formerly Twitter.