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Iran’s president missing after helicopter crash – conflicting reports of finding

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According to Iranian media, there is heavy rain, fog and wind in the area, which makes it difficult for the emergency services to search. Large rescue forces from the Red Crescent, the military and the police are participating in the search. Drones have also been used. Photo: Azin Haghighi / Moj News Agency via AP / NTB

Of NTB | 19.05.2024 21:49:28

Crime and justice: – We are optimistic, but the information coming from the accident site is worrying, an Iranian official told the Reuters news agency late on Sunday afternoon.

It was a little before 3pm that state Iranian TV reported that a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi had suffered a “hard landing” in the west of the country.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other high-ranking officials were also on board.

A rescue operation has been launched, and the chief of staff for the military, Mohammad Bagheri, has ordered all available military personnel to contribute.

At 6 p.m., Iranian state television announced that rescue crews were soon at the scene of the accident. At 20:00, an Iranian official said there had been repeated contact with two passengers on board the helicopter of Iran’s president.

The identities of the two were not disclosed, nor is it known whether they were injured.

Not long after, several state Iranian media reported, according to Reuters, that rescue teams had found the helicopter. Shortly afterwards, however, the Red Crescent and the state news agency Irna denied that the helicopter had been found.

At 21:00, the commander of the army in East Azerbaijan informs Irna that a signal has been received from the helicopter and the mobile phone of one of the passengers.

Iranian TV has suspended its scheduled broadcasts and is showing images of people praying for the president in several places in the country.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urges Iranians “not to worry” about the country.

– The Iranian people should not worry, there will be no disruption in the country’s work, Khamenei said in a speech on state television.

– We hope that the almighty God will bring our dear president and his companions back unharmed in the arms of the nation, he continued.

According to Iranian media, the helicopter had to go in for landing due to difficult flight conditions. It has not been possible to confirm whether anyone was killed or injured in the accident.

Raisi had been in Azerbaijan on Sunday morning to inaugurate a dam together with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

– I am deeply shocked by the news that the helicopter carrying Iran’s president has crashed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Raisi and his entourage. Azerbaijan is ready to help, says a statement from Aliyev on Sunday evening.

The White House says in a statement that it is following the situation closely, and that US President Joe Biden is being kept up to date. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also says he is following the situation closely. Iraq has ordered several of the country’s institutions to contribute to the search operation.

Raisi won the 2021 presidential election, an election that had the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s 45-year history.

The 63-year-old is sanctioned by the United States in part because of his role in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners during the Iran-Iraq war in the late 1980s.

According to Iranian media, there is heavy rain, fog and wind in the area, which makes it difficult for the emergency services to search. Large rescue forces from the Red Crescent, the military and the police are participating in the search. Drones have also been used.

The accident reportedly happened near the town of Jolfa, near the border with Azerbaijan, in the mountainous Iranian province of East Azerbaijan. The state-run Iranian news agency Irna describes the accident site as “hardly accessible and covered by forest”.

Initially, it was reported that one of the helicopters in the entourage carrying the president had been involved in an accident. There must have been three helicopters in the entourage.

63-year-old Raisi is conservative and previously led the country’s judiciary. He is seen as a protégé of Khamenei, and some experts have suggested that Raisi could replace the 85-year-old after his death or resignation.

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