Helicopter completely destroyed in mountain crash, state media confirms deaths of Raisi and Abdollahian

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Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (left) and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian (right).

20th May 2024 – (Tehran) President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian are presumed deceased following the crash of their helicopter in Iran’s Eastern Azerbaijan province. After more than 12 hours of intensive search and rescue operations amid harsh weather conditions, no survivors have been found at the scene of the accident.

The helicopter, carrying the president, the foreign minister, and seven other individuals, reportedly made a hard landing on Sunday afternoon. Despite the immediate launch of a search operation, the rugged terrain, accompanied by poor visibility, heavy fog, and inclement weather, severely hampered the efforts.

The Revolutionary Guards confirmed the exact location of the crash, approximately 3 kilometers from the village of Tavileh, after a Turkish-operated drone detected heat signals believed to be from the wreckage. Images from the drone displayed the helicopter had impacted a steep and forested hillside, leaving little more than the tail intact.

The severity of the crash was further underscored by reports from the Iranian Red Crescent, which described the smell of fuel at the site and confirmed the deployment of 73 rescue teams, including 23 with specialised equipment, from Tehran and other provinces.

Photographs from the scene showed a devastating sight with the helicopter’s propellers and cockpit completely destroyed by fire. The use of thermal imaging technology revealed no signs of life, extinguishing hopes for survivors among the wreckage.

Earlier, Iran’s Foreign Ministry had expressed gratitude for the international support and humanitarian sentiments extended by foreign governments and organisations aiding in the rescue efforts. Despite the adverse conditions, rescue teams continued their search with hopes of finding survivors, clinging to every possible chance of saving lives.

Following the demise of Raisi, it is expected that Mohammad Mokhber, the current first vice president, will assume temporary leadership until an election can be conducted. Mokhber, who was appointed in 2021, has faced direct sanctions from the United States due to his involvement in overseeing the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, Iran’s most affluent state-managed endowment. This foundation was established utilising extensive properties and assets that were seized during the 1979 revolution.

At the age of 63, Raisi secured the presidency in an election marked by historically low voter turnout, with the exclusion of reformists and seasoned politicians. Upon assuming office, he vowed to discontinue efforts aimed at fostering trade connections with Western nations, redirecting the focus towards cultivating closer ties with China and Russia. His presidency marked a departure from the previous era, during which the foreign ministry was headed by linguistically proficient diplomats who advocated for improved relations with the United States and enhanced trade with Europe.