Chopper With Iran President, Minister Onboard Crashes. What We Know So Far

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Chopper With Iran President, Minister Onboard Crashes. What We Know So Far

Photo of Iranian President's chopper taking off before the crash took place.

A helicopter with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian onboard has crashed in the mountains of the Jofa region of the western province of East Azerbaijan, reports said.

The 63-year-old Iranian President was visiting the province today, where he inaugurated a dam project with Azerbaijanian President Ilham Aliev, on the border between the two countries. Iran's Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei has told citizens to 'not worry' after Raisi's helicopter crash.

"Lives At Risk"

The helicopter was part of a chopper fleet that took off and navigated through dense fog and harsh weather conditions. His convoy included three helicopters, and the other two had "reached their destination safely," according to Tasnim news agency.

The helicopter is yet to be located but an Iranian official told Reuters that the lives of Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian were "at risk following the helicopter crash".

"We are still hopeful but information coming from the crash site is very concerning," said the official. There is no news on Raisi's condition.

Bad weather was complicating rescue efforts, the state news agency IRNA reported. Over 40 rescue teams using search dogs and drones were sent to the site, the news agency said.

The helicopter reportedly belonged to the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), a non-government humanitarian organization.

Footages from state media show the IRCS team and other rescue officials walking up the mountain slope in dense fog to locate the helicopter. The state TV also broadcast footage of people praying for Raisi in his home city.

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.

Leaders React To Chopper Crash

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted to the incident and said, "Deeply concerned by reports regarding President Raisi's helicopter flight today. We stand in solidarity with the Iranian people in this hour of distress and pray for well being of the President and his entourage."

Deeply concerned by reports regarding President Raisi's helicopter flight today. We stand in solidarity with the Iranian people in this hour of distress, and pray for well being of the President and his entourage.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 19, 2024

Neighbouring Azerbaijan's President has offered to help the rescue teams locate the Iranian President's chopper.

"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 on social media.  "The Republic of Azerbaijan stands ready to offer any assistance needed," he added. 

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," a government spokesperson said.

"We are closely following reports of a possible hard landing of a helicopter in Iran carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister," a US State Department spokesperson said in a statement. 

A spokesperson for President Biden, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters that the President has been briefed on the situation. 

Ebrahim Raisi - A President Close To Supreme Leader

Ebrahim Raisi came to power in 2021 after the Presidential elections and is close to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei. His term witnessed one of the biggest protests in Iran in several years since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. 

In 2022, Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman, died in police custody, sparking massive civil unrest and a brutal crackdown by the government for several months.

He came to power after an election which saw more than half the electorate staying away and several popular candidates getting barred from contesting.

He succeeded Hassan Rouhani, whose biggest achievement was a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that gave Iran relief from international sanctions. 

He has criticised the Rouhani regime after then-president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact in 2018 and reimposed punishing sanctions on Iran.

With Inputs from AFP, Reuters

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