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Friday June 14, 2024

Iran to hold funeral procession for President Raisi, other officials today

Iran announces five days of mourning as VP Mokhber secures approval to assume duties as interim president

By AFP
May 20, 2024
Iranians gather at Valiasr Square in central Tehran to mourn the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and seven others in a helicopter crash the previous day, on May 20, 2024. — AFP
Iranians gather at Valiasr Square in central Tehran to mourn the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and seven others in a helicopter crash the previous day, on May 20, 2024. — AFP

A funeral procession for President Ebrahim Raisi would be held in Tehran on Tuesday, following his death in a helicopter crash, Iranian officials announced on Monday

"On [Tuesday] morning, we will have the funeral procession in the city of Tehran" for Raisi and other members of his entourage killed in the crash, Mohsen Mansouri, vice president for executive affairs told state television.

Raisi was declared dead on Monday after rescue teams found his crashed helicopter in a fog-shrouded western mountain region, sparking mourning in the Islamic republic.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate authority in Iran, declared five days of mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, to assume interim duties ahead of elections within 50 days.

Earlier Monday, state TV announced that "the servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom" and broadcast pictures from Raisi's life.

Khamenei had urged Iranians Sunday, as the search was still ongoing, to "not worry" about the leadership of the Islamic republic, saying "there will be no disruption in the country´s work".

Killed alongside the 63-year-old president, were Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and seven others, including the pilot, bodyguards and political and religious officials.

An image showing the crash site of the helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, FM Hossein Amirabdollahian and other senior officials in this image released on May 20, 2024. — Fars News Agency
An image showing the crash site of the helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, FM Hossein Amirabdollahian and other senior officials in this image released on May 20, 2024. — Fars News Agency

Adverse weather conditions

Iranian authorities first raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon when they lost contact with Raisi´s helicopter as it flew through a fog-shrouded mountain area of the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province.

Raisi had earlier met Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on their common border to inaugurate a dam project.

On the return trip, only two of the three helicopters in his convoy landed in the city of Tabriz, setting off a massive search and rescue effort, with multiple foreign governments soon offering help.

Iran's Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi at first spoke of a "hard landing" and urged citizens to ignore hostile foreign media channels and get their information "only from state television".

Army personnel, Revolutionary Guard and police officers joined the search as Red Crescent teams walked up a hill in the fog and rain as rows of emergency services vehicles waited nearby.

As the sun rose on Monday, rescue crews said they had located the destroyed aircraft with nine people on board.

State television channel IRIB reported online that the helicopter had "hit a mountain and disintegrated" on impact.

Iran's Red Crescent chief Pirhossein Koolivand confirmed that its staff were "transferring the bodies of the martyrs to Tabriz" and that "the search operations have come to an end".

No disruption in govt work

The cabinet vowed that the government's work would go on "without the slightest disruption" and said that "we assure the loyal nation that the path of service will continue with the tireless spirit of Ayatollah Raisi", using his clerical title.

Expressions of concern and offers of help had quickly come from countries including China, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, which later offered condolences.

US President Joe Biden was briefed about the search, an American official said, and the European Union activated its rapid response mapping service to aid in the search effort.

Raisi who came to the office in 2021 succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani, at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions over Iran´s contested nuclear programme.

In March 2023, regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a surprise deal that restored diplomatic relations.

The Gaza war sent tensions soaring and a series of tit-for-tat escalations led to Tehran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets directly at Israel in April this year.

In a speech hours before his death, Raisi emphasised Iran's support for the Palestinians, a centrepiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"We believe that Palestine is the first issue of the Muslim world," said Raisi.